City to try different approach with blighted properties

Published 7:03 pm Thursday, September 27, 2018

City officials may go another route to secure the services of a surveyor and lawyer for its blight elimination program, provided the Mississippi Home Corp. approves.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen propose to use a section of the state bid law that allows local governments to acquire certain services called “professional services” such as legal, engineering, architectural or audit services, without having to advertise for bids.

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The decision comes after the city has twice failed to receive proposals for legal and surveying services to replace two dilapidated homes under the city’s $165,000 blight elimination grant.

Housing director Gertrude Young was at a loss why no one has responded to the requests.

“We did the mail-outs, we did the advertisement, not just in Vicksburg, but in Jackson; we sent certified letters to different companies,” she said.

Mayor George Flaggs asked Young to check with the Mississippi Home Corp., which issued the grant, to see if the city can hire under the professional services provision of the bid law.

“We may be able to just appoint somebody, but I don’t know whether or not this grant incorporates state law or federal law, or not,” he said. “Check with them and see, and let them know that we have tried twice.

“I know the state law allows us to hire, without bid or RFP, professional services,” Flaggs said. “So if this would be permissible under this grant, that should be the way to go.”

Under the blight elimination program, the city will remove selected homes with a clear title. The blight partner, a nonprofit corporation, buys the dilapidated property and builds the new home on the site after the old building is removed. The new home is then sold to a new owner.

Vicksburg is the second city in Mississippi to be awarded a blight elimination grant, Young said in June. The $165,000 is expected do 11 properties under the program at $15,000 for each home — enough for the blight partner to buy the property, close on the property, and for the demolition. The partner builds the new home at its own expense.

The Mississippi Housing Corp. is an organization founded in 1989 to enhance Mississippi’s economy by financing safe, decent, affordable housing for families. The blight elimination program is one of its programs.

The board in May approved agreements with three organizations — Perfect Touch Contractor of DeKalb, Warren County Habitat for Humanity and Construction Ministries — to build new homes on the site of vacant, dilapidated homes under the grant.

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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