County needs sports complex answers

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 25, 2015

Warren County’s three representatives named to Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr.’s sports complex committees say they’re ready to serve, but they want more information about the project and the plans to finance it.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday named Board President Bill Lauderdale, District 1 Supervisor John Arnold and county administrator John Smith to serve on committees handling site selection and design, as well as feasibility financing and marketing for the proposed sports complex. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the appointments Friday.

The appointments came about a week after the two boards met to discuss the sports complex at a supervisors’ work session.

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“I commend the board of supervisors for taking this position,” Flaggs said. “Since our meeting, everything I’ve been hearing is very productive. We’re on track to start some preliminary discussions on a sports complex.”

He said adding the county officials “adds some more clarity, some more unity to it, and I think the taxpayers enjoy that we’re working together.”

But the county representatives said they’re still in the dark on the nuts and bolts of the proposed complex.

“We’ve got a lot of unanswered questions,” Warren County administrator John Smith said. “It’s like they’re putting us in the middle of the project like this is a done deal and we’re going to help select the site. We need to know more about this sports complex, because it’s always been perceived as a city project, not a county project.”

“There haven’t been any details,” Lauderdale said. “There’s the (ad hoc committee) report, that’s been made about the complex, but I have some questions about the present facilities and what will happen to them.”

He said he was also concerned about comments from some members of the Vicksburg Soccer Organization, which indicated some dissatisfaction about the county soccer fields at Bovina and a desire to relocate to another area.

“I hadn’t heard that, so there’s some loose ends I’m trying to find out about, but if there’s a way for us to help improve recreation in the county, there’s no doubt about that, I’m for that,” he said. “(But) We need to see what you can afford to build.”

Arnold said he wants to see a structured plan for the project.

“I am 100 percent for a sports complex, but I want to see the financing and a structured plan,” he said.

Flaggs named the committees on Dec. 29, two weeks after the city’s ad hoc recreation committee released its report calling for a multipurpose recreation complex of baseball, softball and soccer fields with basketball, tennis and volleyball courts and a multipurpose building with indoor pool located on a 270-acre tract of land. No site was recommended.

Aldermen Michael Mayfield and Willis Thompson co-chair the site selection committee, while Flaggs heads the feasibility, finance and marketing committee.

After the vote on the county representatives, Flaggs said all discussions about the proposed complex will be done in the open.

“We’re going to be transparent in everything we do, and ultimately it’s going to be the voters’ decision to decide whether they want it or not,” Flaggs said. He said Thompson was looking at other potential sites in the city and county, but added city officials are not ruling out the city’s Fisher Ferry property which was bought in 2003 and has since cost the city $2.7 million in site and drainage work.

“We still think that (since) we own land, we should do everything possible we can to make certain it cannot be built there,” he said.

“The best interest of the city is to use property we already have,” Thompson said. “We can’t support spending $15 to $16 million on property and $5 million developing the property before we break ground. We’re looking at some options. There may be some 16th Section land available. If that’s a possibility, then that would be great to have that option without going over what we have to spend for this development.”

While he supports the sports complex, Thompson said, he still believes the board’s No. 1 priority is upgrading the city’s infrastructure.

“We have to look at out utilities, we have to look at our street maintenance and servicing. Those are things that all of citizens benefit from, and that’s what we’re charged with as city officials to provide those services to the public.” he said.

“We will take care of the needs of the city, and everything else is secondary,” he said.

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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