City board looks to quickly improve city’s appearance

Published 9:35 am Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen are serious about improving the city’s appearance, and that means city employees responsible for that will have start doing a better job or be out of one, South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour said.

The city’s appearance was not on the board’s agenda Monday, but popped up after a discussion of a list of buildings and lots declared a public nuisance under the city’s ordinance presented by community development director Victor Grey-Lewis.

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Mayor George Flaggs Jr. started the dialogue when he asked about a “please fix” photo of overflowing trash at the Art Park at Catfish Row that appeared in The Vicksburg Post.

“That’s disgraceful,” he said. “We’ve got people coming off these boats and riding around, and it’s embarrassing.”

Trash collection at Catfish Row and along city streets is handled by the city’s community service department, which allows people who have fines to pay them off by collecting trash at city parks and roadsides, and cleaning the public restrooms at Catfish Row, in the downtown area and Halls Ferry Park. Flaggs said the workers aren’t doing a good enough job.

“We pay $207,000 a year for that service, and we’ve got to do better,” Flaggs said. “Alderman Monsour got a call this morning, the restroom there (Catfish Row) was pathetic.

Monsour said he is constantly calling community service to go back to the park to clean it, “And that is something we should not have to repeatedly get out and ask them to do. I have had conversations with people, and it’s something we’ve got to fix and fix fast.”

“This just makes no sense, and it’s embarrassing for us to ride around and see that trash and tall grass on public rights of way,” Flagg said.

Monsour said the city can expect to see some changes, adding he’s “made some moves and put some ultimatums out there. I’m tired of seeing it, too. We’ve got to put pride back in the city of Vicksburg and do our jobs. If you don’t want to do your job, somebody else will.

“I don’t want to seem like the guy who comes in being mean, but it’s to get this place straightened out. I don’t care if I hurt somebody’s feelings; they’re just going to have to be hurt. We’re fixing to make this city right.”

Flaggs agreed. “We’ve got to do better.”

Monsour, who is over the city’s recreation department, which includes Catfish Row and Riverfront Park, said after the meeting he believes city workers may have become lax in their duty toward keeping the parks clean.

“We have to pay attention to details,” he said. “We need to get things on schedule and set up a rotation, so the grass is cut at certain times and we need to make sure we do things in the right manner. We’ve got to have accountability.”

And the problems extended beyond keeping the city parks and rights of way clear of tall grass and weeds and litter.

North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said city officials are fighting a battle with property owners over overgrown lots, derelict buildings and illegal trash dumps that dot the city.

Mayfield, who is over public works and community development, said he is compiling a list of properties in violation of the city’s building codes.

“It’s so hard to get people to cleanup their own property,” he said. “You’ve got people who let their yards get overgrown a foot to foot and a half tall and they’re just sitting in the house. We have estate houses and the property owned by the state (in violation). I’m catching pure ‘H’ about them. People are getting tired of it.”

He is also trying to identify people responsible for illegal dumps across the city.

“We have found the names of people from papers found in the dumps, and we want those people to are dumping illegally to know we will be coming for you,” he said.

Violators, he said, “Are dumping everything, and the sad part about it, is that most of what they’re dumping illegally, under the (garbage) contract that we have now, all they have to do is set it in front of their house.

If city officials can prove who illegally dumped trash, he said, “ I promise you will be arrested. So all you guys out there illegally dumping, beware; someone’s going to come knock on your door. You’ll get a ride, but it will be in the back seat.

Flaggs said city officials will get the trash and violation problems under control.

“When we get our arms around it, you’re going to have a cleaner, better city at the end of four years,” he said. “We’re under a different charter now; we’re going to get it done.

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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