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Board reviews capital projects list, talks funding

Street paving totaling $10 million tops the list of capital projects under consideration by the Vicksburg Board of Mayor Aldermen projected at $17.6 million.

The list, which is about $100,000 more than the original $17.5 million capital improvements project proposed by the board in December, was discussed along with possible financing by the board, City Attorney Nancy Thomas and City Accounting Director Doug Whittington at a Monday afternoon work session.

“I believe we can get it (the loan) at 3 percent interest,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “We will be able do this (borrow the money) without raising millage. It’s going to require us to prioritize our spending and our hiring.”

He said he, Thomas and Whittington have been meeting with representatives from Governmental Consultants Inc., a Jackson company that advises city and county governments on financial matters.

“These are the same people who helped us restructure our existing debt and get our bond rating back,” he said.

If the board plans to spend the full $17.6 million, Whittington said, Demery Grubbs, a former Vicksburg mayor who works with Governmental Consultants, recommended the city borrow $18 million to cover the cost of issuing the bonds.

Flaggs did not know when the city would borrow the money, adding, “we want to do it as soon as possible,” but indicated the decision could be made in time to start projects in the spring or early summer. He directed Aldermen Michael Mayfield and Willis Thompson to set priorities for the street paving and other projects on the list.

Thomas reminded the board it would have deadlines for borrowing and spending the money.

“The main thing that we have to remember is this, from the day we adopt the intent resolution, we’ve got 24 months to issue the bonds,” she said. She said it will be up to the board to determine how much it wants to spend, “but you have to borrow all the money you’re going to borrow within 24 months without doing another intent resolution.”

Once the money is borrowed, she said, the board has three years to spend it.

“So you have to have your projects ready to go at the time you borrow the money so you’ll be able to spend it and complete your projects,” she said.

Thomas and Whittington said they would meet with Grubbs to look at different payment options for the loan.

“The (priority) list looks good,” Flaggs said, recommending the board borrow the full $18 million and spend $9 million “during this administration” and the other $9 million later.

Whittington said Grubbs recommended borrowing the full amount, “because if you don’t issue all of it, you lose nothing.”

“Let’s wait until the payback (structure) comes back and we will prioritize what we need to do,” Flaggs said.

“As long as paving is the top priority, I’m on board,” Thompson said.

“You and Michael work in the street paving and prioritize that,” Flaggs told Thompson, “and everything else is flexible. Everything else is flexible depending on the money.”

Besides paving, the capital improvements list includes:

• Girls softball parking lots at Halls Ferry Park, $300,000.

• Renovations to the pavilion at City Park (roof and lighting), $320,000.

• Farmers’ market pavilion and improvements, $500,000.

• Cover and heat the city pool, $2 million.

• Relocate one station and/or combine two fire stations, Station 9 and possibly Station 8, $1.6 million.

• Repair roofing system (gutter system and gable skylight system) at City Hall, $156,500.

• Replace carpet and tile at the Vicksburg Convention Center, $275,000

• Animal control building — add additional 4,000 to 5,000 square feet, $450,000.

• Additional projects: municipal buildings/new construction, park improvements/upgrades, vegetation/tree removal, street light upgrades, $2 million.

The plan discussed by the board Monday is a different program from the one Flaggs presented in a plan released Dec. 26 that proposed splitting the then $17.5 million project into two phases with the city borrowing from $5 million and $12.5 million this year and the balance at a later date.

That plan followed a Dec. 19 meeting of the city’s capital improvements committee in which the members agreed to postpone a proposed $25 million utilities improvements program until 2016, and consider two borrowing options to fund the first phase of capital improvements.

The city currently has an A2 bond rating from Moody’s Investment Services, a New York-based provider of credit ratings and risk analysis, which restored the rating in July, more than two years after pulling the city’s credit rating because of incomplete audit reports going back to 2008. Vicksburg’s current debt limit is $48 million.

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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