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Flaggs outlines areas where city, county could work together

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. has outlined a plan he believes will improve and enhance communication and collaboration between the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the newly elected Warren County Board of Supervisors.

Just days after the election, Flaggs said he was ready to work with the supervisors to improve Vicksburg and the county.

“Based on the election results, I don’t know a time when Vicksburg and Warren County is going be better served,” he said at the time. “I think the people have spoken in this community and I think the message is clear — they want us to work together and they want us to reduce the cost of government to them.”

At Monday’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Flaggs said he has talked to two of the five supervisors about improving the relationship between the city and county boards.

“I think it’s imperative that we create the environment and opportunity where we can work for the betterment of the taxpayers, because it’s all of their money, and I think what they really want us to do is reduce the cost of government and increase the quality of service,” he said.

Kelle Barfield, who was recently elected to represent District 5 on the Board of Supervisors, said she has talked with the mayor since the election.

“We’ve had conversations since the elections but have not discussed specifics. That would be a little bit premature, we don’t take office until Jan. 1, but what we have talked about is a greater sense of collaboration across not just city government and county government but organizations across the county,” Barfield said. “It’s really that philosophical alignment that we’ve talked about at this point. The one commitment I would give him at this point is a commitment to listen, share ideas and find solutions to what we’re all trying to achieve.”

District 1 Supervisor-elect Ed Herring said he has not yet talked to the mayor, but would “be interested in entertaining his suggestions.”

Shawn Jackson, who was elected to represent District 3 on the board, said she has also not talked with the mayor as of yet.

“But I am, after proper vetting, I can say I’m interested in working where it makes sense, but we haven’t identified a list yet,” she said.

Flaggs said he plans to meet with each supervisor individually about several issues:

• Enter into an interlocal agreement to allow the city to invest and collaborate with the county and the Vicksburg-Warren Partnership on future economic development efforts

“This is a new board; they have a new attitude, and I believe we can create far more jobs than we did in 2018 when we led the state if we do more collaboration and we invest,” he said, adding city attorney Nancy Thomas is examining some issues.

• Enter into an interlocal agreement for shared use and lease-purchase of equipment.

Flaggs said the city and county should consider combining resources to purchase heavy equipment for city/county use.

• Investing and collaboration on the design and funding of a new county jail.

“The last board made it clear to me that they had no interest in me being involved in it,” Flaggs said. “I believe this new board is amenable to discussing such things.”

He believes by working together, the city and county can reduce the cost of housing inmates in the new jail.

“I think Warren County’s taxpayers want us to build a jail together where we can both benefit and reduce the cost to the city, so we want to talk about that,” he said.

• Reduce the cost of Vicksburg-Warren E911 while improving effectiveness.

Flaggs wants to get a city board member on the 911 Board of Directors to help look at reducing emergency communications costs. He also wants to have Vicksburg Fire Chief Craig Danczyk appointed as chairman of the board.

• Consolidate tourism and marketing costs.

“There are too many dollars going to too many places as related to tourism and marketing (in Vicksburg and Warren County),” Flaggs said. He wants to work with the boards and revisit the interlocal agreement involving the composition of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“I want to look at the structure again to make certain we’re eliminating duplication,” he said.

Flaggs believes there is too much money being spent on marketing between the Vicksburg Convention Center, the VCVB and Vicksburg Main Street.

“We are not sending any more dollars to Main Street that does not come before this board,” he said. “I believe in being transparent and accountable. If Main Street wants one dollar other than what we’ve budgeted them, then they have to come before this board and request it of this board.”

• Consolidate city and county health care costs using the city’s employee health care clinic. Both the city and county have self-insured health care plans.

“We’ve shown where we can save money,” Flaggs said. “If we collaborate, it will be a pot and there will be more cost-sharing, and it will reduce health care costs. I believe bringing in the county will help the county; it would create access and affordable health care to them and reduce their costs as well.”

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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