Rec committee seeks public input

Published 12:52 pm Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Members of the city’s ad hoc committee on recreation are taking their program to the residents, planning public hearings, a petition, and present their message to local civic and school organizations to get the public’s ideas on recreation in the city.

The committee will meet July 7 with representatives from Southaven, Brandon and Laurel to discuss how those areas planned and generated public support for their programs. A meeting with the Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders to discuss recreation is set for July 21.

Committee chairman Omar Nelson said three public hearings would be held in August and September. No dates or locations have been set, but the committee considered having at least one hearing at the Vicksburg Auditorium and another at one of the high schools, possibly at Warren Central High School on Mississippi 27.

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He said petitions supporting either upgrades to the city’s recreation facilities, a multipurpose athletic complex, or upgrading the present facilities and building a new facility would be distributed during the hearings.

Addressing local civic and educational organizations, Nelson said, will enable the committee to reach more people and give them an idea of the committee’s plans and generate interest in recreation by letting people ask questions about facilities.

“If a committee member can go and share our story (with an organization) about what we’re trying to do, I think that would put us in a much better position (to reach the public),” he said.

Committee member Rowdy Nosser told the committee it has to give local residents a sense of investment in plans for the city’s recreation program. “If people have a sense of investment, they will support it,” he said, adding meeting with community organizations could help develop that impression.

Nelson said the idea behind the committee’s plans to reach out to the public is to let the Board of Mayor and Aldermen know that when the committee presents its final report on Dec. 31, “that the recommendation is coming from the people, not just the committee.”

He also recommended committee members to keep records and prepare reports from the public hearings and the meetings they attend.

Nelson said the board will take several weeks before the report is presented to compile the information from the public hearings and meetings, “so that when we present this to the board, it will have had a lot of thought and effort put into it and not something we just put together.”

The committee was appointed in May by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to examine the city’s recreation programs and present recommendations to improve the overall program over the next five years by Dec. 31.

The committee first met on June 5, and began discussions that indicated a move toward a multipurpose recreation complex, marking the third time a recreation complex for the city has been discussed.

In 2003, the city bought the 200-acre Fisher Ferry Road property near St. Michael Catholic Church for a sports complex for $325,000. The project was abandoned in 2009 after an additional $2.7 million had been spent for preliminary plans, engineering and dirt work. The city has spent $55,343 since August 2012 to replace the concrete in the drainage chutes on the site with riprap and grout under a Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality mandate. The board in March put the property up for sale for a 90-day period. Information about any possible interest was unavailable. Former mayor Paul Winfield in 2012 promoted an estimated $20 million sports complex funded by a half-cent sales tax. Current Mayor George Flaggs Jr., who was a state legislator at the time and had a hand in bringing a potential tax increase to a vote, opposed the project because there were too many uncertainties with the project. The project died when the chairman of the House Local and Private Committee refused to introduce the bill.


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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