Board of Supervisors wants $100,000 project split four ways instead of five

Published 10:00 pm Monday, September 11, 2017

Warren County supervisors want the four entities that have already contributed money to fund development of a new economic strategic plan for the county to each chip in another $5,000 toward the effort.

District 1 Supervisor John Arnold suggested the move at a Monday Board of Supervisors work session.

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Arnold asked Vicksburg Warren Chamber of Commerce executive director Pablo Diaz to see if the chamber, city of Vicksburg, the Warren County Port Commission and the Warren County Economic Development Foundation would consider increasing their contributions to the estimated $100,000 project.

All four organizations have each contributed $20,000 toward hiring a consultant to assist in developing the plan, but several supervisors have balked at contributing an addition $20,000 because they said the Board of Supervisors and the port commission, which was established by the board, are one unit. District 2 Supervisor William Banks said Sept. 5 the county would be paying $40,000 toward the plan.

“The port and the Board of Supervisors are all one,” Banks said Monday. “It should have been four entities instead of five.”

Diaz said the decision to include the board as a separate entity was discussed by the chamber during a meeting on the strategic plan.

He said increasing the contribution by $5,000 would be discussed by the chamber’s board of directors when it meets Tuesday. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen meet Friday, and the port commission meets Sept. 18.

“I understand how many of you feel,” he said, concerning Banks comment. “I don’t think that point (about the port commission and the board) came across during that meeting. I don’t think anybody brought that point up.

“We heard your feedback; we appreciate your feedback.”

District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon asked what the strategic plan was going to feature.

Diaz said the plan would define the direction the county would take toward improving its economy.

“They (the consultant) are going to help us to look at other things we can be, not only who we are,” he said. He used the presence of the Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Army Engineer Resource and Development Center.

“Are we taking advantage of that enough? Or can we do much better in terms of using a national laboratory to leverage more investment?

“Are we limiting ourselves to what we know by not bringing experts who have been out there, looking at different communities and have different perspectives? By having support from the outside, you not only bring a fresh view, but a view that has been in and touched other states and other communities.

“It’s worth it to bring help from the outside so that our horizons are expanded and hopefully we’ll see something that will be the life-changing opportunity for Vicksburg and Warren County.”

Diaz said the $100,000 figure was a “budget number we think will cover it?” and based on his past experience with similar programs. He said the consultant selected could have a lower fee.

“Let’s get to an understanding. Are we one entity, the port and the county,” Arnold asked. “How we move forward with this one is going to establish how we move forward on the next one when it comes to the money. Is the port and the supervisors going to move as one?

“I think we need to move on the same page when we work with the city, with the chamber, with the EDF. If we agree to this one (the county contributing), it establishes we’re two.”

“Personally, I don’t like to be told, ‘This is what you all are going to do because we decided it,” Selmon said. “And for the chamber to say, ‘This is how it’s going to be,’ and once we bring the issue up, you say, ‘So what? This is how it’s going to be.’ That’s no respect for the Board of Supervisors. You don’t want our opinion, you want us to write a check.”

Port commission chairman Margaret Gilmer said the chamber’s action was not a sign of disrespect, but a case of poor communication with the supervisors.

“There should have been better communication,” Gilmer said. “But going forward, if it is something that would possibly require money from the port and the county, we need to come to y’all first. We fully agree with that.”

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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