Mayor offers insight into plans for Fisher Ferry property

Published 10:18 am Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A developer will build the ball fields and other recreational facilities at the city’s Fisher Ferry property and lease them back to the city under a plan by Mayor George Flaggs Jr. to transform the site into a sports complex for Vicksburg.

Flaggs presented the plan during discussions on the proposed sports complex at a Monday Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session. The mayor has said he anticipates the construction of baseball, softball and soccer fields and an indoor facility on the property.

The board is expected Thursday to discuss a resolution outlining plans for Fisher Ferry and setting a June 2017 referendum for a 2 percent special tax on hotel rooms and food and beverage sales in restaurants to fund it. The referendum will be on the same ballot as the municipal general elections.

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Under the plan, Flaggs said, the city would lease the property to the developer for $1 to do site preparation and build the facilities. Once the work is complete, the facilities would be leased back to the city under a 20-year lease, and the developer will be responsible for operating and maintaining the facilities and the property. The facilities will go to the city when the lease expires.

The lease payments would be made using revenue from a proposed 2 percent special sales tax.

“It will pay for itself with the 2 percent,” Flaggs said. “It will have no impact on the general fund obligations of the city. There is no risk to our budget and we will still own the property. From what I understand, that is as low a risk to the taxpayer as anything out there as relates to recreation.”

A five-member committee composed of two people appointed by the city, two by the county, and one joint appointment will administer the complex, he said. The board will hire a director to oversee the operation, maintenance and use of the park, he said.

Except for appointment a site selection board to examine sites for a proposed sports complex, the county has not been involved in the city’s sports complex efforts. Flaggs compared the committee to the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau board, which has members appointed by the city and county.

Flaggs put the Fisher Ferry property on the meeting agenda after North Ward Aldermen Michael Mayfield, in a Sunday The Vicksburg Post article on the proposed sports complex, expressed concern over potential problems with the property and a proposed sports/entertainment complex being planned for an as yet unidentified site in the city by a private developer.

“This (the sports complex issue) has dragged on and it’s gone through three different boards,” Mayfield said. “This board needs to be on the same wavelength, but we have to be careful what we present to the people.”

He said people were becoming confused with the two sports complex ideas and several asked him why the city continued to spend money at Halls Ferry Park and Bazkinsky Park when the board is talking about a sports complex.

Money for improvements at Halls Ferry and Bazinsky parks is included in the city’s $9.2 million capital improvements project.

The board in November approved the construction of four additional tennis courts at Halls Ferry to allow the city to be able to attract tennis tournaments.

Flaggs said the private development is a separate project from the city’s.

“We’re not involved with that at all,” he said.

He said the resolution to be presented Thursday will resolve any confusion about plans for Fisher Ferry and the improvements at the city’s present parks.

“We’ve nailed it down. That (the resolution) spells it out.”

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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