Dick Hall fires back at Vicksburg officials over mowing authority in city limits

Published 7:20 pm Saturday, July 7, 2018

The city of Vicksburg is welcomed to cut Interstate 20 inside the city limits, Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall said.

“Clinton does it,” he said. “We have a signed agreement; we have a memorandum of understanding, and Clinton mows I-20. And there are a number of other cities do that, and cities the size of Vicksburg mow the highways inside their city limits.”

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And that includes U.S. 61 North and South within the city limits, Hall said. It’s the city’s responsibility to cut the grass on U.S. 61 under state law, he added.

Hall’s comments came Friday in response to criticism by South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour and Mayor George Flaggs Jr. that the Mississippi Department of Transportation was derelict in cutting the grass on I-20. Monsour said he wanted I-20 “looking like I-20 in Clinton.”

“The city of Vicksburg is responsible for mowing the grass on Highway 61 within the city limits of Vicksburg,” Hall said. “I’m a native of Vicksburg, and I have constituents over there, too, and since the city doesn’t choose to mow the grass, MDOT, even though we’re short on funds, have been mowing the grass inside the city limits because the city has not been doing it.”

According to a section in the state code on highways, bridges and ferries, cities “shall have full control and responsibility” of any designated highway or street, with the exception of the Interstate highways, within the city limits.

That responsibility, according to the statute, includes, “The construction and maintenance of sidewalks, grass mowing and drainage systems.”

Hall said Monsour has been told “many, many times,” that the city of Clinton mows I-20.

Clinton Mayor Phil Fisher said the city has had an agreement with the state since 2014 to cut the grass on I-20.

“I just asked,” he said. “We wanted it cut to a higher standard, and the state only cuts it three times a year.”

MDOT Low on funds

Hall said MDOT doesn’t have the money to cut the grass on I-20 in Vicksburg or Jackson or other areas as many times as it used to.

“We’re trying to do the best we can with what we got, but I don’t want to be criticized for doing some things that we’re not even supposed to have to do because state law says we’re not responsible,” he said. “We’re trying to do all we can for Vicksburg, and I really don’t appreciate the criticism for the effort we’re making.”

Monsour said he was told that Clinton cuts the grass on I-20, but claimed it gets an assist from the state. He said he would begin looking into cutting grass on U.S. 61 in the city limits, but added he was not aware it was the city’s responsibility until MDOT’s central district engineer told him earlier this week.

Flaggs said the city has tried unsuccessfully to get an agreement to cut grass on I-20, and told Monsour to get an agreement from the state to find out what areas the city is responsible to maintain.

He said the news that Clinton is cutting grass is the first time he’s heard of any city cutting grass on the Interstate right of way.

“All I’m saying is the grass looks terrible and somebody has to be responsible for it,” Flaggs said.

“I’m open to try to figure out what we need to do to get the grass cut. It is a priority of mine. If we have to do it, we’ll do it, but somebody’s got to take responsibility for the grass.”

And I-20, Monsour said should be cut by the state.

“The way I feel about it … if MDOT entered into a contract with somebody to cut the grass, those people should cut the grass. If they’re getting paid to cut the grass, they should cut the grass, and they’re contracted to do four cuts.”

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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