COUNTY YEAR IN REVIEW: George says new jail closer to reality than ever before

Published 9:00 pm Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Making progress on the location of a new jail in Warren County tops the list of goals for the Warren County Board of Supervisors in 2017, according to Board President Richard George.

It has been a project in the works for years and George is confident the goal is near heading into 2018.

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“The most significant accomplishment at this point, almost to the point of site selection of the jail to be constructed,” George said Friday of progress the county made in 2017.

“That’s been an issue for quite some time,” George said. “We were able to narrow down to what we thought would be a single site, but still have not gotten a response from the city jail search committee. At this point we are awaiting their decision.”

The selection of a site for the new jail has not come without opposition and controversy.

In September, the supervisors heard from Stantec’s Brian Robbins and John McKee about the two proposed properties for the new jail, which they previously said they hoped to have completed by 2019.

The second site was a 47-acre property known as the Pine Woods property, which is located off U.S. 80 and near the site of the former Pine Woods Hotel.

During the Sept. 25 work session, McKee recommended the Berryman Road site as it would be easier to build on and require considerably less work to run a sewer system to the site.

The Pine Woods site would require approximately 5,000 feet of sewer in order to tie into the city sewage city costing $200,000 and require upgrades to the pumping station. There are also several structures that would have to be demolished at the site and mobile homes that would have to be moved.

The Berryman Road property would require only 1,300 feet of sewage piping and be able to tie in near the YMCA costing $155,000.

This location was quickly met with resistance from the business community and neighbors in the area who fear potential safety and property value issues.

In November, the supervisors made a recommendation to locate the jail in the CERES Industrial Park.

George said at the time there is a tract of land “with ample space for a jail.”

“There’s no other development in that immediate area of the park,” George said. “Utilities are already in place, sewer, water, gas and power.”

This site was also met with opposition from the development community and city officials and a week later, Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs appointed a committee “to look at the construction, design and operation of a jail/holding facility inside the city or outside the county seat of Warren County.”

“The construction of a new jail for Vicksburg and Warren County is critical for the future of the city,” Flaggs said.

George agrees with Flaggs and believes a new jail facility is vital to the community.

“This has been an ongoing process, especially this year, to visit, explore sites and try to make the best choice for the future and we are very close to having that accomplished,” George said.

George said the supervisors have been able to control spending to “make sure we have more money coming in than going out.”

“It can be a challenge, but to control spending is an absolute must,” George said.

He said the county has also made progress in overlaying roads.

“We have continued to overlay roadways in the county with all the funds we have available to do that with and we have put ourselves in a position, with some adjustments in our spending plans, that we should be able to increase overlay projects in the coming years,” George said.

An increase in the millage rate for Hinds Community College also has helped in the construction of a new multi-million dollar, 40,000-square-foot addition to the Vicksburg campus that will help in educating and training students for the new Continental Tire plant near Clinton.

The county continues to make improvements at the Port of Vicksburg and upgrading facilities to enhance the ability to draw more contracted business, said Pablo Diaz, who was hired in February as the new economic development leader for Warren County.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce, Warren County Port Commission and Warren County Economic Development Foundation chipped in $25,000 each to hire a consulting firm to develop a comprehensive long-term economic development strategy for Vicksburg and Warren County.

“Vicksburg-Warren County is at a point of great opportunity to leverage our assets and better define where we want to go in the future,” Diaz said. “We must think beyond Vicksburg and beyond Mississippi, to position our community for greater success and economic prosperity for our residents.” 

Other county improvements included a $900,000-plus grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation for needed repairs to a warehouse at the port.