Capital improvement plan a good idea, but at what price

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Last week, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. announced he is presenting a 10-year capital improvements plan for the city April 5.

Given the age of Vicksburg’s infrastructure and the desire of city and community leaders to improve the city’s and the county’s economy by recruiting industry and increasing tourism, a 10-year plan for the city is a good idea.

There is no doubt the city’s infrastructure, which in some areas is more than 100 years old, may not be able to handle future growth as more people and businesses move into Vicksburg. The mayor is already talking about building a new wastewater treatment plant to either supplement or replace the city’s present wastewater treatment plant on Rifle Range Road. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Feb. 23 took bids to replace and upgrade the 50-year-old electrical system at the water treatment plant on Haining Road.

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Vicksburg’s 111-year-old sewer collection system is in the third year of a 10-year Environmental Protection Agency-mandated assessment, repair and upgrade project. We still have many streets that need paving, our storm drain system is in need of improvement and in some cases an overhaul. Our existing athletic and recreation facilities need further upgrades. Many city buildings are in need of upgrades. Given all these needs, a 10-year plan is an intelligent way to address them in an orderly manner.

But two questions remain — how much will this plan cost and how will it be paid for.

A capital improvements plan for the city proposed during Flaggs’ first term was estimated at $55 million. The mayor has declined to discuss this new plan’s projected cost or how it will be financed until he makes the presentation April 5, citing potential confusion with the Vicksburg Warren School District’s $83 million bond issue.

April 5, he said, when he reveals the program he will discuss how it can be financed. And the question people will ask him is, “How much will it cost me?” and that’s the key question.

There is no question the city needs a major capital improvement program, but whether it gets the support of the public will depend on how much it will take out of their pockets. And if he wants public support, the mayor had better follow his mantra of “the best service at the lowest cost to the taxpayer.”