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Mayor announces $55M 10-year capital improvement project

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. unveiled a major $55 million 10-year capital improvements project Thursday, highlighted by an estimated $125 million multimodal port on the Mississippi River and a proposed one-cent sales tax to pay for improvements.

Flaggs outlined a $26.5 million plan for public works, public safety, tourism, and paving, but singled out the new port as the key element in the 10-year plan, calling it “the game changer.”

He said $28.5 million of the proposed $55 million capital program would be dedicated as potential matching funds for the port project.

“Nowhere you go in this state are you going to find the river as pretty as Vicksburg, and I-20 and an airport in the same city,” he said. “Guess what? 33 miles from Continental; 66 miles from Nissan. That’s better than 150 miles from the Coast.

“If we build that port, that’s 500 jobs. If we do that, that’s the biggest game changer since the Civil War in Vicksburg, Mississippi.”

The port would also mean the expansion of the Vicksburg Municipal Airport, Flaggs said, because corporate executives coming to the city and the county want to use their private planes. It would also mean the development of tax-free and enterprise zones.

“That’s a tax incentive for foreign governments to come into your city, come into Mississippi and build right here in Vicksburg, Mississippi,” he said.

Flaggs said the city is willing to commit $1 million toward planning and construction of a new port, “Because we can’t just say we want it, we’ve got to prove it will work.”

He said the proposed one-cent tax is expected to raise $3.9 million a year and payoff the $55 million bond issue in 20 years.

Flaggs outlined the remaining part of the capital projects:

• Information technology, $4.6 million: The plan calls for the expansion of the city’s broadband capabilities to make the entire city wifi accessible. The program also calls for the installation of fiber optics and the installation, expansion and upgrade of the surveillance cameras at city buildings and mobile surveillance in high crime areas.

• Public works, $7.03 million: Improvements and expansion at Cedar Hill Cemetery, traffic upgrades and improvements at the riverfront.

• Public safety, $3.5 million: $3 million of the budget is for a new fire station in south Vicksburg. The money will also be used to improve the city’s Class 5 fire rating, and improve the police department’s capabilities.

• Street paving, $3.8 million: Expand the city’s present paving program.

• Tourism and art museum, $3 million: “The way to grow an economy quickly is through small business and tourism,” Flaggs said.

Money would be used to build a larger tourist information center and create a tie-in between the Vicksburg National Military Park and the state park at Grand Gulf, Raymond and Champion Hill.

“We have 250,000 tourists a year come to Vicksburg and they stay eight hours,” he said. “What we need to do is get them to stay a day-and-a-half.”

Tying the three battlefield sites to the Military Park is one element; having the proposed international art museum by the Vicksburg Convention Center is another. Flaggs said he planned to raise the $2 million needed to get the project started. 

“One penny will get you all of what I’ve just told you,” he said. “It exempts the hotels and the restaurants, because we’ve already hit them for 2 cents for our sports complex.” It also does not affect prescription drugs, groceries or car tags.

“Everything else will get you $3.9 million (year). It’s one penny; now who can’t lose one penny?” Flaggs said.

“It’s the best investment you can invest in with one cent.”

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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