County appoints 3 to rec panel

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Warren County counted three appointments as its official participation on the current push to build and finance a sports complex in Vicksburg.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors chose two of its own members — Board President Bill Lauderdale, District 1 Supervisor John Arnold — and county administrator John Smith to serve on a committee to analyze feasibility, financing and marketing a rec facility. Nominations came a week after all three members of the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen and other key city officials met with the county on the issue.

Lauderdale, who said last week he wouldn’t seek re-election this year, initially offered up the county’s parks and recreation commission to be on the committee. The five-member commission oversees Clear Creek golf course and soccer fields at Bovina.

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

“Instead of me, why don’t we choose the chairman of the parks and recreation committee,” Lauderdale asked before agreeing to a motion by District

2 Supervisor William Banks to accompany Arnold and Smith on the panel.

In December, Flaggs created the committee and named seven people to a separate committee tasked with analyzing a site and design of a sports complex. Earlier in the month, an ad hoc committee wrapped up six months of public meetings and reviews by recommending a sports complex be built on 270 acres and feature 12 soccer fields, eight youth baseball fields, eight softball fields, an amphitheater and a meeting center. It would replace fields at Halls Ferry Park and soccer fields at Clear Creek in Bovina that officials for years have termed outdated.

In last week’s session, city officials asked for the county’s support for tax hikes on hotels stays and/or restaurants tabs. Three proposals took turns shifting the tax burden; one included both hotels and restaurants inside the city, one spread a higher tax countywide, and a third kept a higher tax with hotels exclusively.

City officials estimated doubling the existing 1 percent tax on hotel rooms would net an additional $1.2 million. Any proposal must be filed and sent to committee in the Legislature by mid-February deadlines in order for voters to decide the matter on this year’s ballot. The general election is Nov. 3 for local and statewide elected offices.

Already wary of more taxes, supervisors on Tuesday kept a skeptical stance on the topic of a publicly funded sports complex.

“We’ve already told people we don’t have money for a new jail,” District 5 Supervisor Richard George said. “Now, we’re going to do this?”

Arnold has said private sector money is best to fund a sports complex. No specifics have come about on land any more or less suitable than the 200-acre tract off Fisher Ferry Road the city owns and has promoted heaviest since last fall.

About $3 million has been spent preparing the Fisher Ferry site, near St. Michael Catholic Church, for adequacy as a sports complex location since the city bought it in 2003. The expenditures run the gamut from land clearing, drainage improvement, flood plain-related engineering, and dirt work.

Last March, the city put the land up for sale for 90 days, but no takers came forward.