City board to appoint recreation committee

Published 10:36 am Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen are putting the future of the city’s recreation programs in the hands of 11 people.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said Wednesday the board is expected to name an 11-member committee to evaluate the city’s recreation programs, facilities and possible improvements.

He expects a vote on the idea when the board meets May 23.

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“It’s things we can offer the public,” South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson said. “We had a good group at the last board meeting with the tennis (courts), telling us what tennis means to Vicksburg. And if we can offer some things we’re not offering now, that will be great for the community.”

Under the resolution, the group will make its recommendations by Dec. 31.

The will include parents and people with a background in sports, Flaggs said. He said he intends to appoint a lawyer to the panel, while Thompson said one of his appointments will be an accountant.

“People who have a vested interest in the community will definitely be on this committee,” Flaggs said.

“I’m hoping by Monday we’ll have the selections finished,” North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said. “I’m only interested in people who are going to adhere to the job that’s put in their hands.”

Having people with a vested interest in the community’s programs, he said, will give the board a better picture of what is needed and what the residents want, “and these people won’t bring you a great big pie in the sky back and expect you to follow suit.”

Flaggs said the committee is not an attempt by the board to renew a push for a sports complex or acquire land for recreation.

“I’m not interested in property, that’s putting the cart before the horse,” Flaggs said. “That’s what killed the last (sports complex) issue, talking about property first.”

If a sports complex is discussed by the board, he said, it will be recommended by the committee.

“If they want to bring it back they’ll be bringing it back,” he said. “We’re not going to give it to them to bring back.

“I’m not interested in giving them input,” Flaggs said. “I want them to meet and tell us which direction they want us to go in the next five years. We’re (the board) not putting our fingerprints on this.”

“If this committee goes out and does their homework like we expect them to do, I believe they’re going to bring us back a good blueprint of what they see as far as recreational activities across this city,” Mayfield said. “From there, it’s up to us to sit down and digest it, and then try to put the numbers to it. I think they’ll bring us something back that’s workable.”

The move toward a recreation committee comes as the board considers a five-year capital improvements plan that includes upgrading the city’s parks and recreation system. Proposed improvements to the city’s recreation facilities totaling $1.28 million were part of a $57.7 million, five-year capital improvements proposed by city department heads.

A recreation committee has been discussed by the board twice before. In October, the board sent a resolution to the Warren County Board of Supervisors seeking a joint recreation committee, but county officials have decided against consolidation.

A recreation committee was discussed in 2012 when former mayor Paul Winfield was making his unsuccessful push for a sports complex. The committee was never formed, and the sports complex died in April 2012 when a bill for a ½-cent sales tax to fund the project died in the House.

One reason the plan died was a lack of planning by the city, when Winfield decided to look for land and funding before developing a plan for the complex.

“If you allow yourself to put the cart before the horse, you’re going to find yourself in the rear,” said Mayfield, who was on the board when the sports complex was discussed. He added the project might have been successful if city officials had not left the public in the dark.

He called the committee “the best thing to do. Put it (recreation) in this committee’s hands, let them eye it and comeback and give us the paper and say, ‘O.K. guys, this is what we’ve found.’”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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