Flaggs pleased with accomplishments over the past year

Published 6:21 pm Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Mayor George Flaggs has released a digest of accomplishments during the first year of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s term in office.

“I think we’ve done phenomenal, based upon working together in a new administration,” Flaggs said.

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“I compliment the aldermen for working with me and allowing me to provide the leadership that’s needed. It has worked like a clock, because the aldermen are starting to realize I have a great reputation of creating great relationships and networks with people,” he said.

The one thing Flaggs said has stood out is the ability of the board to be fiscally responsible, give raises to city employees and at the same time streamline city government without raising taxes.

The first term accomplishments include:

• Changing the charter of the City of Vicksburg; each board member has direct oversight and supervision of specific departments to ensure for more accountability.

• Voters passing a special 2 percent special sales tax on hotel room rentals and food and beverage sales at restaurants. The tax passed by more than 60 percent of the vote. The board hired Sports Fields of Canton, Georgia to design, build and operate the sports complex, and a groundbreaking ceremony for the new sports complex was on June 19.

The new facility will provide 10 full-time employees, 80 part-time/seasonal employees, 100 new construction positions, and an estimated 338 new jobs created by economic impact at capacity.

•Adopted the fiscal 2017-18 budget without laying off employees, furloughing employees, or raising taxes for the fourth consecutive year since Flaggs has been in office. The city on June 29 approved a 3 percent across the board raise for city employees in July 2018.

• The city, in partnership with the Vicksburg-Warren School District, was recognized as a Ford Next Generation Learning Community by the Ford Foundation for its commitment and dedication in the education of the youth in the city.

• The city received the 2017 Culture of Heath Prize given by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Vicksburg was one of eight communities who received the award for unwavering efforts to ensure that all residents have the opportunity to live healthier lives.

• A new fire station, Independence No. 3, opened at 50 Maxwell Drive.

• The board hired ESG Operations to take over the operations and maintenance of the city’s wastewater treatment plant. ESG also operates and manages our Water Treatment Plant.

• Flaggs has appointed a Riverfront Redevelopment Committee to develop ideas on revitalizing the downtown riverfront area. An architectural firm in New Orleans has been hired to help with redevelopment and design efforts.

• The city’s employee medical clinic has provided access to better health care for city employees while saving the city more than $600,000 in health care costs.

• After 20 years, the extension of the South Frontage Road/Outlet Mall Road is expected to be completed under the present administration. All permits have been approved and all property has been acquired to move forward. Flaggs has called the project a “game changer” for new economic development.

• The city entered into a partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Foundation and Warren County Port Commission to develop a business incubator in collaboration with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center.

The incubator will be housed in the old Mississippi Hardware building and serve as a catalyst for small business growth, technological innovation and educational advancement.

• Improvements to historic Beulah Cemetery, including landscaping and the design and construction of a new gate and fence that have significantly enhanced the area. There are plans to add a kiosk, marker and additional fencing as well.

• The city is installing a new splash pad for downtown that will enhance recreation for the youth in the community.

• The Catfish Row Museum is set to open in the near future and is expected to be a major tourist attraction for the city. The museum will teach visitors and residents about Vicksburg’s history and culture, while also providing food and entertainment.

• The board adopted an ordinance establishing a Leisure and Recreation District in the downtown area in order for patrons to be able to move from one licensed business to another with alcoholic beverages as long as they remain within the boundaries of the district and as long as the licensed premises is in the leisure and recreation district.

• The board adopted an ordinance allowing brewpubs and small craft breweries to be permitted in certain commercial zones in the city.

• A new daiquiri shop will be locating in the Leisure and Recreation District to help increase tourism in the city in the downtown area.

• Discussions have begun for a proposed Mississippi International Arts Museum to be built in Vicksburg. Flaggs will be meeting with state leaders in the coming months to discuss the project further.

• Flaggs traveled to Washington, D.C., and met with President Donald Trump and gave him a proposal for federal funding for infrastructure projects in the City of Vicksburg for $195 million.

• The mayor has proposed a 10-Year “Game Changer” capital improvements master plan to address infrastructure, job creation, tourism, public safety, riverfront re-redevelopment, a new multimodal port, and high speed broad band for the area.

• The home security website SafeHome.org named Vicksburg the 16th safest city in Mississippi. The designation was based on an analysis of crime data based on FBI uniform crime reports.

• The board approved $50,000 for enhancements and improvement to the Kings and Cedars Head Start facilities.

• City officials are in the process of completing the 592 Water Line Project. All permits have been approved, and the city of Vicksburg has asked the federal government for funding assistance to complete the project.

• The board is working in collaboration with Entergy Mississippi, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the federal government for infrastructure improvements and erosion control of Hennessey’s Bayou and the Kemp Bottom Road Bridge.

• The Vicksburg Municipal Airport has received funding totaling $371,000 for drainage relief. The money assistance will greatly enhance future development and improvements to the airport.

• Industrial Wood Products announced the creation of 50 new jobs to Vicksburg with the location of their wood manufacturing company to the city.

• Margaritaville held a ribbon cutting June 23, and has announced the creation of 170 new jobs with the opening of their new resort hotel in Vicksburg.

• Vicksburg Forest Products has purchased and renovated the former Anderson-Tully site. This company has plans to bring in 125 jobs to Vicksburg.

• There have been 14 ribbon-cuttings for new businesses, nine new building permits for residential structures, and five new building permits for commercial structures since July 1, 2017.

• The board is making other improvements to area recreational facilities including a new tennis pro shop and bathroom facilities at the Bazinsky Field Complex. Also Fuzzy Johnson Ball Park will be receiving enhancements with plans to include new bathrooms, a pavilion, and the resurfacing of the basketball court.

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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