City, county cooperation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 20, 2014

This week Mayor George Flaggs Jr. criticized the Warren County Board of Supervisors for its failure to cooperate with the city on recreation in a discussion about city.

Flaggs’ comments on the county followed questions about the sports complex and the possibility of a bond issue for infrastructure improvement and/or a recreation complex, which included questions on whether the county would participate in a joint recreation program.

The board has asked the Warren County Board of Supervisors to discuss consolidating some services, including recreation. The supervisors so far have declined.

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If county officials don’t want to work with the city, Flaggs said, Vicksburg would forge ahead without them.

“The future if Vicksburg does not depend on county government,” he said.

That wasn’t an accurate statement by Flaggs. As Vicksburg is the only city in Warren County it is very dependent on the county.

The words were warm and pillowy in November when talk turned to having a single oversight entity for public recreation in Vicksburg and Warren County.

The city has taken the first step and asked the county to participate in discussions. The county so far has refused to engage in talks. The county is also very dependent on Vicksburg, the future of the city and county are linked.

Vicksburg’s rec department has a single director, hired by the city board, and looks after 17 parks, including the tennis courts, the softball and baseball fields at the Halls Ferry Park complex, the city swimming pool and the Art Park at Catfish Row.

The apparatus for the county is the Parks and Recreation Commission, led by five people appointed by each county supervisor. The arrangement can create multiple agendas. The majority of their time is spent dealiang with the golf course — conditions of the greens, occasional vandalism of golf carts and/or other parts of the grounds, a few charity events during the year, etc. Their budget is arguably too small, $220,000, given the challenges of maintenance. To remind, the front nine was resodded nine years ago to keep the grass from dying of a root infection. The county financed it with a $250,000 loan, paid back over five years. The back nine is still a gussied-up cow pasture. At the boat launches, the rise and fall of the river controls the condition of the concrete, which can get pricey if you want a smooth surface for your boat trailer tires.

Politics abounds on a molecular level in city halls and courthouses nationwide and ours is no different. The city has extended the proverbial olive branch and the county seems content to ignore it. The city has its fiscal house in order and has a restored bond rating. That puts both the city and county boards on the same footing with borrowing money. Again we say it’s time to get serious about consolidation.