Flaggs travels to Washington to discuss city’s needs with top lawmakers

Published 10:53 am Monday, March 23, 2015

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. stands in front of City Hall.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. stands in front of City Hall.

The Mississippi River and the City of Vicksburg topped the agenda of a three-day Washington trip by Mayor George Flaggs Jr. for the annual meeting of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative conference that included separate meetings with U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“It was very productive,” Flaggs said. “Being able to sit around the dinner table with (Maj.) Gen. (Michael) Wehr of the Mississippi Valley Division of the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers and other generals, and being able to interact with them and other mayor of cities along the Mississippi River.”

The MRCTI is an organization formed in 2012 by mayors along the Mississippi River with the purpose to protect, sustain, and enhance the natural attributes and economic vitality of the main stem of the Mississippi River. Its membership includes 10 states, more than 30 Congressional districts, and more than 120 cities and towns touched by the river from its headwaters in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.

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The initiative conference, Flaggs said, gave him a better appreciation of the beauty and the economic and environmental impact of the Mississippi. Besides discussions on meeting the challenges of the river that include flooding and modernizing the lock and dam system on the upper ends of the river, Flaggs said Viking River Cruises made a presentation on tourism.

Viking cruises is planning to begin a series of river cruises on the Mississippi River.

Flagg’s discussions with Cochran focused on funding for the South Frontage Road extension to the Outlets at Vicksburg, the expansion of Vicksburg National Military Park, the Jesse Brent Lower Mississippi River Museum and Interpretive Center, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, and flood control.

Cochran, he said, “is keenly aware of the issue facing Vicksburg and the challenges and the needs of the city. I left confident if the opportunity presents itself, we ought to do well in appropriations in the future.” Cochran is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Legislature in 2014 approved $4 million toward the planning and design of the South Frontage Road extension, which will take the road on the south side of Interstate 20 across the Kansas City Southern Railroad track to the outlet mall. Flaggs is hoping to get some federal funding for the project.

Money for the expansion of the Vicksburg National Military Park was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2015 to expand the scope of the Vicksburg Military Park to include related sites at Raymond, Champion Hill and Port Gibson. Flaggs is seeking further support from the National Park Service.

He is also seeking federal and state participation in the operation of the Jesse Brent Lower Mississippi River Museum and Interpretive Center, which is owned by the Corps of Engineers. Flaggs has proposed having the city operate the museum with the state and federal governments assisting with the maintenance costs.

He also requested funding to enable to the Corps to continue dredging the Port of Vicksburg.

Besides his meeting with Cochran, Flaggs met with McConnell before leaving Washington to discuss the city’s needs and invited him to Vicksburg if he visits Mississippi. McConnell, he said, “had a great knowledge about the city of Vicksburg.”

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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