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City sports complex tax levy before voters June 6

If it gets the approval of the voters, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen plans to levy the full proposed 2 percent tax on food and beverage sales and hotel room rentals to build the sports complex and a bypass road from U.S. 61 South to Halls Ferry Road.

City officials plan to build the proposed sports complex on its property on Fisher Ferry Road.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. at Friday’s board meeting announced a special called board meeting for 2 p.m. Monday to sign a contract with Octagon Media, the company selected to market the sports complex, and to discuss options for the access road for the sports complex.

The board will also adopt the ballot for the special referendum on the sales tax, which must be approved by the voters before it can be levied by the city.

The referendum will be on the June 6 general municipal election ballot.

Flaggs said the decision to include the road project with the sports complex was reached after discussions with South Ward Alderman Willis Thompson.

He and Thompson, Flaggs said, believe that in order to develop the sports complex and resolve current and future traffic problems on Halls Ferry Road, “We just thought the city ought to take the lead and look at some (bypass road) options which we’re going to present to the board and build the road adjacent to the complex.”

He said the options would be presented Monday.

The road project, he said, is estimated at $10 million. The sports complex is estimated to cost the city $20 million.

“We believe we can build the road and the sports complex with one of these three options if in fact the 2 percent (tax) is presented to us by a vote of 60 percent or more on June 6, and that would be building the sports complex and the road adjacent to the sports complex without raising your taxes, other than the tax that you agree to by the ballot,” Flaggs said

The revenue from the special tax is expected to generate in excess of $1 million each year. Under the bill authorizing the tax, the tax ends once the park’s construction is paid.

“And we think we can do a combination of innovative financing. I think it’s absolutely imperative. The day has come for the city of Vicksburg to go forward and building the road to the future,” Flaggs said.

“The sports complex and the road have to be done as a package,” Thompson said.

Building the road, he said, would also open the area along the road to development and help traffic coming from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center. He said city officials plan to meet with ERDC representatives to look at the traffic problem and the center’s future plans.

“Because of their status, they can tap some areas of funding we can’t” he said.

The current plan to build a sports complex began in 2015 after Flaggs appointed a special committee to examine the city’s sports and recreation facilities and make recommendations.

The Legislature in 2016 approved a local bill authorizing the city to levy up to 2 percent on hotel rooms and food and beverage sales pending voter approval in a referendum.

Vicksburg purchased the Fisher Ferry property in 2003 for a sports complex and spent about $2.7 million in site work on the property before abandoning the project in 2009. At the time, funds earmarked for the property were rerouted to repair the Washington Street bridge, which had been determined too dangerous for traffic.

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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