County forges own path despite costs

Published 11:15 am Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Warren County Board of Supervisors seems determined to go their own way despite the costs to county taxpayers. The board insists on tearing down part of our heritage and history in two dilapidated county-owned buildings on Adams Street across from the Warren County Court House.

Taking them down is out of the question as far as Mayor George Flaggs Jr. is concerned.

Board of Supervisors President Bill Lauderdale said in July the county wants to raze the buildings at 1019 Adams St. and 1015 Adams. “Those buildings are not valuable to us, but the land they sit on is valuable to us,” Lauderdale said. “We’re not in the real estate business. We bought that one building (1015 Adams) to tear it down. We bought the other building to tear it down for a justice court building.” That statement isn’t accurate because the brick, yellow-trimmed former courthouse at 1019 Adams St. was once a law office of John Prewitt before he became a circuit judge. The county bought the building in 1984 to be home to its three justice court districts. The judges were moved to 921 Farmer St. in 2002, and the building essentially became a storage bin. The house at 1015 Adams was built in the 1890s and was home to Verhine & Verhine law firm from 1991 to 2012, according to city directories.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

It was not the first time the county came before the Board of Architectural Review to get the OK to raze the buildings. The board in 2004 and 2005 issued three 180-day stays of demolition as it waited for a plan of action by the county to renovate, sell, lease or raze the buildings. Perhaps the county is biding time in hopes the city and the mayor will move on to other pressing concerns.

Another pressing concern is Vicksburg and Warren County’s need for a sports park. Vicksburg’s largest youth baseball tournament, the Governor’s Cup, brought in 85 teams over two weekends last year to aging Halls Ferry Park, only to have the last weekend of the tournament rained out this year. A modern complex would mean more tournaments, more people and more tax collections.

The county is in need of more tax collections. A $40,000-plus deficit foreseen for Warren County Parks and Recreation in fiscal 2015 has officials considering charging by the vehicle for playing golf, soccer and other outdoor activities at Clear Creek golf course.

The debts are a combination of steeper leases on the soccer complex and for use of 16th Section land owned by the Vicksburg Warren School District, higher health and liability insurance premiums and pay raises in the works for the course’s 15 full- and part-time employees, members of the parks and recreation commission told county supervisors Monday during budget talks.

“You charge $5 a car and you’ve made a whole lot of money,” District 1 commissioner Dale McDuff said, referring to the volume of vehicles from golf and soccer traffic, plus regular traffic from the Bovina course’s 200 or so members. “On my light bill, they don’t call me and tell me it’s going up,” McDuff said. “They just send it to me. If they want to start raising cane, let them start.”

Applying the proposed fee or any other additional surcharge to the school system had support from the majority of the commission and county board. That included District 4 commissioner Joe Loviza, also the district’s school board member, who said after the meeting he’s committed to ensuring harmony between the school board and the parks panel.

“It’s a win-win for the schools to support recreation,” Loviza said during the meeting, adding “if they’re going to charge you, I’m in favor of charging them.”

Seems like an easy enough solution, just charge more! What McDuff and Loviza fail to consider is the fact that having two separate recreation departments for the city and county doesn’t make sense in a community our size. We need cooperation from the county in order to move forward.

Charging a per car fee is not the solution to a long-term problem. The five-member panel appointed by county supervisors is expected to vote on such a proposal when it next meets, at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 19 in the Board of Supervisors meeting room on the third floor of the courthouse. It’s up to the taxpayers of our community to urge the county’s recreation commission and the board of supervisors to seek cooperation with the city.