Fisher Ferry recommended for complex: Site has 170 usable acres

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 11, 2015

PRESENTED: Diamante Global/JCI Holdings senior partner Jon Moore describes the reasons his consulting firm selected the city’s Fisher Ferry property as the most cost-effective location to build a sports complex.

PRESENTED: Diamante Global/JCI Holdings senior partner Jon Moore describes the reasons his consulting firm selected the city’s Fisher Ferry property as the most cost-effective location to build a sports complex.

The Thursday meeting by Diamante Global/JCI Holdings LLC, the city’s consultant for the sports complex site, presented Fisher Ferry as the selected site and explained the recommendation which placed the city’s property as the most cost effective site out of three suggested by the city.

The other two sites were the old Mississippi Chemical/Mississippi Bluffs property bounded by Warrenton Road on the west, Rifle Range Road to the north, U.S. 61 South on the east and Kemp Bottom Road to the south; and the Halls Ferry Park/Bazinski Road property.

In discussing the properties, Jon Moore of Diamante said Fisher Ferry has 170 buildable acres of land that would require little dirt work to prepare for construction. Some site preparation work had already been done, he said.

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Concerns about Fisher Ferry came during a question and answer period that followed Moore’s presentation.

“I’m not against this sports complex, but I am concerned about where it’s going to go,” Warren County Supervisor John Arnold, a member of the site selection committee, told the board, adding, “I have an issue with the Fisher Ferry Road site,” and citing traffic as one problem.

“You’ve got a lot of wetlands to deal with,” he said. The northern end of the property is bordered by Hatcher Bayou, which has flooded in the past after heavy rains.

Arnold and asked Moore how he determined the 170-acre total. Moore said the number was based on information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, personal inspection by his construction officials and flood plain information.

“We’ve had two meetings of the site committee,” he said. “Our last meeting, were taken out to the site, but we have not met since then. I know that we have spent a lot of money out there. Don’t spend good money after bad. You’ve got to change somewhere and realize what you’ve got there.”

He outlined his concern about Fisher Ferry being a two-lane road and Friday afternoon traffic problems from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering Research and Development Center.

“I’m just asking you to consider other sites and consider the downfall of this site, and don’t get in a hurry making a decision,” he said. “I think the site committee should be meeting on this.”

Joe Bonelli also raised a concern about the traffic on Halls Ferry and Fisher Ferry.

“That Fisher Ferry Road complex is going to be bad because of the out-of-town people who are going to be coming in for baseball or soccer tournaments are going to have to wade their way down Halls Ferry Road, and that traffic is going to be bad on Friday afternoons. That’s the time people come in for these tournaments,” he said, asking the board “to look for more sites … wherever you can find them. If somebody else brings something to the table, please consider it.”

Dan Hall asked the board to consider the Vicksburg Municipal Airport as a sports complex site and develop Fisher Ferry as an 18-hole par 3 golf course.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the airport was unsuitable because the Federal Aviation Administration had too much money invested in the facility in loans and grants.

“It would take you almost six years to pay it off,” he said.

According to the report’s findings, the decision on Fisher Ferry was based on five issues:

• The estimated development cost of each site.

• Which site provided the highest and best use as a sports complex.

• Which site had the potential to generate the most tax revenue for the city.

• Which site provided the capability to build a facility that would get noticed in the youth tournament world.

• The total fiscal impact on the city and how it pertains to the future growth and financial stability of the city.

“Based on the assumptions outlined … The Fisher Ferry property is arguably the most cost-effective site on which to build this complex,” according to the report. “It has less environmental issues, will require the least civil work (grading, leveling and remediation), and has the best topography for a sports-based development.”

Flaggs still favors the city’s Fisher Ferry property near St. Michael Catholic Church for a sports complex, but said Friday he’s willing to delay selecting a site for 60 days to allow the city’s site committee to examine other sites.

Flaggs’ presented his comments on the sports complex in a letter at Friday’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, which followed Thursday night’s presentation on Fisher Ferry’s selection as the most cost-effective site for a sports complex attended by about 30 people. Several people said after the presentation they were concerned about traffic issues involving Fisher Ferry and asked the board to consider other sites.

“I am convinced that a sports complex will be built in Vicksburg with the help of a tax being levied on local restaurants and hotels,” Flaggs said. “I am also in favor of Fisher Ferry being the selected site, but in order to be fair and open, I want to ensure that all questions have been erased about building on this site.”

Flaggs presented a series of recommendations besides delaying the site selection that were influenced by comments at the Thursday meeting:

• Site visits to the following sites in Warren County outside the city limits: A 200-acre tract behind the Outlets of Vicksburg; a tract of land on Miss. 27 by Warren Central High School; a tract of land south of Merit Health River Region Medical Center east of U.S. 61 North, and land north of the hospital and north of Vicksburg.

The Miss. 27 site and one of the tracts by River Region were also considered potential sites in 2012 during former Mayor Paul Winfield’s failed efforts to get a sports complex in the city.

• Have Diamante Global/JCI Holdings LLC, the city’s consultant for the sports complex site do a traffic study and count on Halls Ferry Road and Fisher Ferry Road to analyze the impact of traffic by a sports complex at the Fisher Ferry property.

• Ask any potential private developers for a complex present a letter of intent to the city within 60 days.

• Have the site selection committee meet as soon as possible to discuss other sites, make its recommendations and present them to Jon Moore of Diamante Global for a strength, weakness opportunity and threat, or SWOT analysis.

The Mississippi Bluffs property, according to Thursday’s report, would require “considerably more site work due to the drastic elevation changes on the property which will result in higher civil work costs.” Moore said estimated the cost of the dirt work required to prepare the Bluffs property at about $3.4 million.

The report also indicated that the Mississippi Bluffs property, which is bordered on the west by the Mississippi River, has wetlands and environmental issues and “verifiable flood plain areas” that would need to be mitigated. The Bluffs property was at one time considered for a casino resort.

According to the report, the city would have to acquire additional property to expand Halls Ferry Park, adding the layout of the ball fields at the park was inefficient and the site lacked adequate parking.

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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