Avoiding the unavoidable on a rec complex?

Published 11:37 am Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In the 1979 suspense flick, “The Legacy”, a husband-and-wife team of interior decorators attempting to escape a haunted mansion in England find themselves returning to the same house — no matter how fast they drive or what road they take.

While the continuing efforts of civic-minded private citizens and public officials to build a sports complex aren’t quite that scary, the same principle applies to the financing. Mayor George Flaggs Jr.’s comments about how to incorporate ball fields into a $61 million puzzle of capital improvement projects seem to bring us to the same place talk about new county jail always lands us.

“I’ve got two options in mind, without going into details,” he said Monday, referring to ideas he has about funding a sports complex. “It depends on whether the Warren County Board of Supervisors will join in with us on this sports complex or if we have to go it alone. I think we can get to where we need to go with or without them. The city has to move forward. Vicksburg has to move forward.”

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If no private-sector investment comes into play, we’re right back at the house again, namely the house made of higher taxes and bond issues. Vicksburg and Warren County governing boards working together to do anything is always a welcome sight, though Year Two of Flaggs’ term has brought some challenges. Witness the historic properties conundrum. There are only two kinds of money on topics like this, public and private. Short of some private-sector involvement, it’s a given the taxpayers will foot the bill for a sports complex, regardless of where it’s ever built.

When it comes to a site, the city has already returned to the same place they started a decade ago. The city has officially turned its attention back to the 200 acres of land off Fisher Ferry Road first purchased in 2003, then abandoned six years later over worries the mostly low-lying land wouldn’t drain well enough. Fast-forward to 2014, and it now represents the bird in hand for Flaggs, who expected strongly an ad hoc committee to end up saying the land is the perfect template for a rec facility.

The cost has been pegged roughly between $20 million and $40 million. When there are roads to fix and employees’ benefits to pay, the only way to fit a 200-acre park in there is through some infusion of cash. And that typically comes from the same place — no driving required.