City vs. County: Flaggs upset with county engineer

Published 6:18 pm Friday, June 29, 2018

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. took Stantec, the county’s engineer, to task over requiring a traffic impact study on Fisher Ferry Road, which is a county road.

The entrance to the city’s sport complex is on the west side of Fisher Ferry inside the city limits just north of St. Michael Catholic Church. Flaggs said he learned about the study Thursday afternoon from public works director Garnet Van Norman.

Flaggs said the sports complex project has been common knowledge for several years and questioned why the engineers didn’t mention the traffic study earlier.

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“How many years (have) we known we’re going to build a sports complex on Fisher Ferry Road? At least four that I know of,” he said. “Now we finally get Stantec to tell us that we’ve got to have an impact study done because they represent the Board of Supervisors and they’re the county engineer.”

Flaggs said the study will cost more money, “But I’ll stop every payment to Stantec until we talk face-to-face. That is absolutely ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous to do that to us; we gave them $20,000 to do a study on whether we need an access (bypass) road (to the property). Now we have to pay additional money.”

Stantec, which also does work for the city, has a contract with the city to determine a route and design a bypass road from U.S. 61 South to Halls Ferry Road. The new road will also provide access to the sports complex, called Sports Force Park on the Mississippi. The road project is estimated to cost about $10 million.

Stanec, Flaggs said, is the only company that could do the (traffic) study because it’s the engineer for the county. “Can’t nobody do it,” he said.

“They shouldn’t just keep on assessing us money and us paying them money on top of money when they know first hand what we’ve got to do. That is absolutely wrong,” he said. “We had already calculated what that sports complex was going to cost us without the (bypass/access) road, and I’m fully committed to look at the road, but we haven’t done anything yet.

“I’m going to say this to the county and I’m going to say this to the citizens of Vicksburg: If it costs us any more money to build a road off Fisher Ferry because of Stantec, you blame the county and Stantec, because I’ve done everything I can.”

John McKee with Stantec said the study is to determine what will be needed to meet a potential increase in traffic on the road.

“Any time we have a development like that tying into a county road, if it has traffic that’s significant, we want to see what’s needed to be done (to safely move traffic),” he said.

McKee said the city would probably use the consultant already involved with the sports complex project to do the study.

“They’ll most probably come up with an estimated total of cars and traffic that will probably be going at peak times and analyze that and see what needs to be done to take care of that traffic,” he said. He declined to comment on Flaggs’ criticism.

The city bought the Fisher Ferry property in 2003 to build a sports complex, and later bought property from St. Michael Catholic Church to provide access to the site from Fisher Ferry. Work was stopped in 2009, when money for the project was shifted to help pay for replacing the Washington Street bridge over the Kansas City Southern Railroad tracks, which had been closed as unsafe.

Former Mayor Paul Winfield tried to revive the project in 2012, but it fell through when a local bill for a special sales tax died in the Legislature.

Flaggs revived the project after taking office and got a special 2 percent tax passed to pay for it. The city broke ground on the project June 19.

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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