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In voters’ hands: Fate of sports complex to be decided by Vicksburg voters on June 6 ballot

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen have taken one of the final steps in getting Vicksburg closer to a sports complex.

Now the gamble begins.

Until now, the story of the sports complex has revolved around the board’s search for a site and a funding source and its decision to use the city-owned Fisher Ferry property off Fisher Ferry Road for the facility, and fund the project with a special 2 percent sales tax. That has been the easy part.

But the board’s action Monday is a different matter; it puts the fate of the park in the hands of the voters. And there lies the gamble. The board is betting on the possibility that 60 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the June 6 general election will vote “yes” on the special tax and allow the city to levy the tax on food and beverage sales and hotel rooms.

If the referendum fails, it could kill the sports complex and plans for a bypass road to alleviate traffic on Halls Ferry Road.

So if they want a positive vote, the mayor and the city’s two aldermen will have to do good job of putting the odds on their favor. That means making sure the voters know everything about the sports complex, the proposed bypass road that will open a new route between U.S. 61 South and Halls Ferry Road and provide access to the sports complex, and the 2 percent sales tax.

In short, city officials need to explain their plans to invest $30 million in infrastructure and recreation.

That also includes the fact that the 2 percent hotel tax for the Vicksburg Convention Center will be eliminated and the city will make up the $518,315 lost by removing the tax from its general fund.

The board members have hired a Baton Rouge, La.-based marketing company to help them “sell” the sports complex concept to the voters.That’s a wise move.

It allows one organization to concentrate solely on providing the correct information on the issue, and this is one time the board, as Mayor George Flaggs Jr. likes to say, needs to be transparent and present all the information to the company it’s hired.

Flaggs emphasized how important the June 6 referendum is,

“We are now putting this out to a vote in the hands of the voters. If the voters choose not to do it, we can’t do it. This is all we can do.”

The ball is in the voters’ court. If the board want the referendum to pass, it had better serve an ace.