Mayor, aldermen OK agreements for money for $3.5 million projects

Published 5:19 pm Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Friday took steps that will bring $3.5 million in state money to the city for two projects.

The board at a special meeting approved two agreements with the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration; one for $2.5 million for the Vicksburg Hardware building project and $1 million for a feasibility study for the proposed multi-modal port for Vicksburg.

The $2.5 million is coming from the state’s share of the $700 million BP oil spill settlement. The $1 million for the port is from state infrastructure funds.

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Flaggs said the special meeting was called because the city had to get the agreement in as soon as possible to get the money, adding he wants to amend the city charter to allow two board members to approve an action and have it put on the minutes at the next meeting.

He has asked city attorney Nancy Thomas to determine whether to board members can approve an action, like applying for grants or special funding, without having to call a special meeting.

“I think that’s the policy of the city,” he said. “I believe the meeting is the recording of the action that was taken. It doesn’t give you authority to take action, I believe it records the action that’s been taken or it gives you the opportunity.”

Flaggs said the present charter, which was approved in 1912, requires two signatures and two votes to get an item on the agenda.

“I think that’s antiquated; I don’t know who came up with that, but we’re going to look at it,” he said. “Because I think you should exercise any authority if you have another vote, and then, when we come to the meeting, you ratify that. If Mr. Mayfield and Mr. Monsour want to do something, they can do it; then they just have to have the same two votes when they come to the meeting.

“That’s the way I look at it, because going forward, we’re going to have whole lot of things that we’re going to have to be able to do, and in this technology, we should not have to wait two weeks to ratify something. It does not take away anybody’s authority,” he said.

“When you have a water outage, an emergency, do you have to call a meeting to call it a disaster? You don’t. We declare it. Two of us, we validate it. The law simply says you have to make it a matter of record as soon as possible.”

According to Mississippi’s Open Records Act, the board can meet by teleconference or by video as often as needed if an emergency exists and it is unable to meet in regular session. However, the action and the nature of the emergency must be recorded in the board minutes.

It takes two out of three votes (on the board) to get anything done,” Flaggs said. “I’m just simply saying that if you’re going to compete economically with these (economic development) projects, you’ve got to work fast.

“I’m just trying to bring Vicksburg into the 21st century.”

The recommendation allowing board members to take action outside of board meetings is the latest proposed amendment to the city charter. Flaggs in 2017 amended the charter to place board members over different city departments to provide more accountability in city government.

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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