Time is running out: Sports complex site committee needs to move forward and name a location

Published 10:07 am Monday, July 20, 2015

In December, a special committee appointed by Mayor George Flaggs Jr. to evaluate the city’s recreation programs and facilities recommended upgrading Vicksburg’s current facilities and building a multipurpose recreation complex for the city.

Almost eight months later, that complex is still a vision. No site has been selected and no design has come off a planner’s table. It’s time get this project resolved and moving.

In the early months following the committee’s recommendation the city went to work, getting a local and private bill passed to allow Vicksburg voters to determine if city could levy up to a 2 percent special sales tax on hotel room rentals and food and beverages sold in the city for the complex. A site committee was appointed to look at potential locations for the proposed complex, and a consultant was hired to examine three possible sites, including the city’s property on Fisher Ferry Road, which was bought in 2003 for a sports complex.

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When the consultant  in April recommended Fisher Ferry and several residents raised concerns about traffic and flooding, Flaggs instructed the site committee to meet and look at other potential sites, giving it 60 days to make a recommendation.

Since then, the site committee has met twice — May 8 and July 15.

On May 8, the committee agreed to look at potential sites on Mississippi 27 near U.S. 80, U.S. 61 North south of Merit Health River Region Medical Center and Ring Road off U.S. 61 South, southeast of the Vicksburg Municipal Airport. In June, the airport became a possible site and was added to the list.

Initial attempts to get out and tour the sites were hampered in late May and early June by state municipal and county association conferences and by bad weather, as rains soaked the area making it hard to get vehicles on the tracts. A more recent attempt to meet before July 15 failed. The members agreed to try and meet sometime this week, but no date or time was set. It was more like “we’ll give you a call and see what we can come up with; maybe in the afternoon.”

We are now approaching August, and the referendum on the special tax is Jan. 12.

It’s time for the site committee to get up, get moving, do its job and recommend a site, whether it’s Fisher Ferry, the airport or some other location. They know what’s needed, they know what the area’s geography is like — either hills and hollows or floodplains. The committee needs to set a date, a time, and as many members as possible get out to the selected sites, evaluate them and prepare a report for the absent members and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen so we can move forward with the project.

The time has come — get the wheels moving on the sports complex or drop it.

North Ward Alderman Michael, a committee member, probably put the feeling of the community accurately when he told the committee “The citizens that really want this are already at a breaking point where they’re saying, ‘Cut the BS and get it done.’”