Special session might include funds for Mississippi Hardware, port study

Published 6:45 pm Monday, August 20, 2018

When the Legislature goes into special session Thursday, city officials will be seeking money for two projects in Vicksburg.

Gov. Phil Bryant called the special session Friday to deal with transportation funding and possibly other capital improvements. Bryant, however, has provided few details about the session’s agenda.

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“We’ve been in contact with the leaders of the state and to our local delegation, and we’ll see how that goes,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said at a meeting of the Board Mayor and Aldermen Monday. “It’s never over till it’s over in the Legislature.”

Flaggs said after the meeting the board is seeking money for the Mississippi Hardware building renovation project and $2 million for a feasibility study for a proposed new Mississippi River port at Vicksburg.

South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour said he will meet with Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves Tuesday to discuss the requests.

“I’m meeting with him to let him know ahead of time what we’re doing and what we’re asking so he’ll be aware of what we’re doing,” Monsour said. “We’ll be moving forward Thursday. Both the mayor and I will be working the capitol.”

The $19 million Mississippi Hardware project is designed to convert the former garment factory and hardware building into a multi-floor innovation and tech transfer center to serve the Vicksburg area and the central Mississippi region. The city has committed $300,000 toward the project, and has received a $545,000 Delta Regional Authority grant to renovate and expand the building’s parking lot.

Flaggs announced the proposed new port in April as part of a 10-year, $55 million capital improvements program. The city’s share of the proposed $125 million port project is $28.5 million.

What’s on the agenda?

District 55 Rep. Oscar Denton, D-Vicksburg, said he had not received a formal notice of the governor’s call, and has not received information on what will be on the agenda. He said he had not talked with Flaggs or Monsour.

State Sen. Briggs Hopson III, R-Vicksburg said he has not seen Bryant’s formal call for the session.

“I think his announcement was giving us a rough idea that this was going to be about roads and bridges and infrastructure repair and looking at funding sources to make those improvements, but I have not seen the details or limitations in the call, and I’m not sure he’s put out the official call,” Hopson said.

“I don’t know if there will be some other items in there that will include additional use of bonds or other revenue,” he said. “I have heard a good possibility that the funds from the BP oil spill settlement may be utilized for this and there may be some other bond funds, but I need to see exactly what’s on the table first so I’ll know what projects are available to discuss.”

Hopson said he has not talked to Flaggs or Monsour about Mississippi Hardware or the port study.

“I am excited the leadership over there is trying to deal with this hard issue,” Dist. 54 Rep. Kevin Ford, D-Vicksburg, said. “Of course, until we see what the governor calls in this special session and what the bill is, I won’t know anything until I see it.

“I know the leadership has been working on the House side since the session ended, a lot of those ideas I am in favor of.”

Ford said he has talked with Flaggs and Monsour, adding he is in favor of a House proposal to divert sale tax money to cities and counties. “But the question is, does that end up in the final legislation that they drop in the House floor? Until we get there, you just don’t know.”

Reeves, who presides over the Senate, said Monday there is a “general agreement” that any package of legislation should include transferring some taxes on Internet sales to cities and counties.

He’s also ready to use money from sports betting and creating a state lottery to increase spending on the state Department of Transportation. He also said lawmakers are also likely to borrow up to $300 million.

Reeves and House Speaker Phillip Gunn both say they personally oppose a lottery, but both have indicated they’re willing to concede to the wishes of other lawmakers.

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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