Site committee needs to make public recommendation on sports complex soon

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 6, 2015

During the Battle of Leyte Gulf in World War II, Adm. Chester Nimitz, the commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, sent Adm. Bill Halsey a message seeking information on a naval task force that was not where it was supposed to be: “Where is Task Force 34? The world wonders.”

The same could be said for the site committee tasked with finding a site for a proposed multipurpose sports complex for the city.

The last time the committee, which is composed of city and county officials, met was in late July. At that time, the committee was supposed to tour three prospective sites for the sports complex 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.

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That was the last time any word was heard from the group, which apparently hasn’t met as a group in more than a month, and has made no recommendation of a potential site.

When the committee was appointed in April, it seemed to be on the fast track. The members held regular meetings, were out looking for potential sites and discussing possible schedules to tour the sites.

The three sites discussed at the July meeting was designated as the sites with the best potential, and it seemed they would be examined in short order. Inclement weather in July, however, prevented those tours from occurring because of wet ground.

Now the ground is dry, and there has been no indication whether the committee has toured the properties, added more sites to examine or whether it plans on presenting any site at all. No indication the committee has met at all, which raises the question if it is meeting outside the public’s sight. Aldermen Michael Mayfield and Willis Thompson co-chair the committee. Because they form a quorum of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, whenever they call a meeting, it is a public meeting, yet no notices of meetings have been sent.

There are other issues, such as cost. If the committee decides to recommend a piece of property for the complex, how much will the owner want? The facility the city is looking at will require between 100 and 200 acres of land to accommodate it. Mayfield estimated in July the city could be looking at paying $5 million to $6 million for suitable land — land that would not require a lot of site preparation.

Is the city’s Fisher Ferry property now completely out of the picture? The land off Fisher Ferry Road near St. Michael Catholic Church was purchased by the city in 2003 as the site for a sports complex called Champion Hill. Since the land was bought, the city has spent $3 million on site preparation and wetlands permits. Will this property continue to sit idle?

An attempted earlier this year to sell the property was unsuccessful.

The time for deliberation is over. The site committee needs to make a decision on a location and present it to the public with recommendations on how to proceed.

Alderman Mayfield was right in July 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.’”

It’s time for the committee to follow that advice and do something, one way or the other.