2nd half of 2017 marred by tough losses

Published 5:31 pm Sunday, December 31, 2017

The second half of 2017 opened with a sense of optimism on the part of city officials and a national honor coming to the city, but the good feelings about the present and future were mixed with tragedy as Vicksburg and Warren County lost two community leaders and saw fatal house fires.

A new Board of Mayor and Aldermen took office in July with Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield returning to their seats and former state Rep. Alex Monsour being sworn in as South Ward alderman. Monsour had to resign his District 54 seat in the Mississippi state house, and was succeeded by Kevin Ford, who defeated Dr. Randy Easterling in a Nov. 28 runoff election.

Flaggs used the swearing-in ceremony to announce he was dedicating $1 million of the city’s second $9.2 million draw in capital improvements bond money to improvements in the Kings community.

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The city lost one of its biggest boosters in September with the death of restaurateur Rowdy Nosser at age 55, the owner of Rowdy’s and Taco Casa restaurants in Vicksburg, who died after suffering stroke on Aug. 18. Nosser used his businesses to promote the city, and was a big supporter of youth sports in Warren County, and one of main supporters of the sports complex projects.

Another community leader who died in the second half of the year was Mountain of Faith Ministries executive director Tina Hayward, who died in July. Hayward founded Mountain of Faith as a shelter to help homeless women in Warren County.

Two children, 16-month-old Mariah Dearman and 27-month-old Glen Williams, died Dec. 14 when their home at 715 Johnson St. was destroyed by a fire that also damaged a nearby home. The children’s uncle, Thomas Dearman, 24, was severely burned in an unsuccessful attempt to save them, and intense heat and flame prevented firefighters from reaching them.

Fires in September and November claimed the lives of two adults.

Debra Sweet, who was confined to a wheelchair, died in September when a fire destroyed her home on Marcus Street. Attempts by relatives and neighbors to save her were unsuccessful. Danny Cogan, a former Northeast volunteer firefighter, died when neighbors were unable to save him from the fire that destroyed his home on Roy Young Road.

On a more positive turn, the city of Vicksburg was one of eight cities to receive the Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Award for programs aimed at improving the health of residents.

The eight award winners were selected from 2,000 communities applying for the award, which included a $25,000 cash award.

Developers of the old Mississippi Hardware building in August announced plans for a $19 million project to convert the former garment factory and hardware building into a multi-floor innovation and tech transfer center to serve the Vicksburg area and the central Mississippi region. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved allocating $300,000 toward the project.

In the county, after searching multiple sites the Warren County Board of Supervisors designated property in the Ceres Industrial Park as the site for the proposed new county jail, an announcement that drew fire from the Warren County Port Commission and Flaggs, who said the city could not support a jail at Ceres.

Other events occurring during the second half of 2017 included:


• Voters approved a special 2 percent city sales tax on hotel room rentals and food and beverage sales to fund the construction of the proposed sports complex.

• Eleven adults faced disturbing the peace charges in connection with a fight the spread through three areas of town and was recorded and shown on Facebook.

• Vicksburg business owners Michel and Rashmi Thakur become U.S. citizens.

• The Mississippi Department of Transportation awards a $908,958 grant to the Port of Vicksburg for capital improvements.

• Mississippi Mud Pie, the house dessert at Rowdy’s Family Restaurant, is to be featured on two network food shows, INSP’s “State Plate” food show hosted by recording artist Taylor Hicks, and the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods, Delicious Destinations,” hosted by Andrew Zimmern. Solly’s Hot Tamales is also featured on the Travel Channel broadcast.

• Armstrong Flooring announces it is closing its Vicksburg plant in October, affecting 93 workers.

• Community agencies and area churches band together to gather supplies to help victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. The relief package also includes 16 pallets of gallon water jugs from the Warren County Emergency Management Agency.

• Three miles of Mississippi 465 north of Eagle Lake is closed for paving as part of a U.S. Corps of Engineers paving project.

• The Warren County Board of Supervisors approve a $36.18 million budget featuring a 3.11 mill property tax increase and a projected $5,000 surplus.

• The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approve a $32.65 million budget.

• Noted Vicksburg surgeon and community leader Dr. Briggs Hopson retires from practice after 50 years in the medical profession and is honored by Merit Health River Region and the community.

• The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approve a leisure and recreation district along Washington and Mulberry streets to allow people to consume alcoholic beverages outside of a restaurant or club or take their drink from one licensed business to another licensed business inside the district.

• The Delta Regional Authority approves a $545,000 grant to the city to improve the parking lot at the old Mississippi Hardware building.

• The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approve a 50 cents per hour increase for police department patrol officers.

• The Warren County Board of Supervisors donate the old justice court building on Adams Street to the Heritage Guild of Vicksburg. The supervisors tried unsuccessfully to sell the building. The guild plans to renovate the building and sell it to raise funds for other projects.

• The Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce signs an agreement with Vision First, a consulting company, to develop the county’s strategic plan for economic development.

• Snow, varying from 1 to 4 inches, blankets Vicksburg and Warren County.

• The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approve $1.8 million in budget amendments to capital improvements, including a farmers’ market pavilion and a pavilion at Mission 66 Park.

• The Board of Mayor and Alderman amend the city’s zoning regulations to allow brewpubs and micro breweries as special exceptions in the downtown commercial district and the city’s C-4 commercial districts.

• A survey by online security website Safehome.org indicates Vicksburg is the16th safest city in Mississippi.

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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