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Flaggs said city could be forced to cut city workforce

Declining revenues could force the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in the future to reduce the city’s workforce by 10 percent, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said Wednesday.

If the revenue doesn’t come in, and the city doesn’t receive reimbursement for its losses from state and federal aid, the mayor said, “We are first going to look at reducing our workforce. That would be mandatory, and that won’t be laid off; that would be terminated.”

His announcement came during a Facebook Live question and answer session Wednesday on The Vicksburg Post’s Facebook page. You can see the full video here.

Flaggs also released sets of proposed guidelines for restaurants and barbershops and beauty salons after they are allowed to reopen, but did not say when the businesses would resume activity.

Flaggs also said he would hold a 2 p.m. Sunday press conference to discuss the extension of the emergency declaration’s shelter in place order. That press conference can be seen on The Vicksburg Post’s Facebook page.

“It is absolutely critical that we extend it,” Flaggs said. “We’re at the apex (of the virus) and we’re flat, but we’re nowhere near the projections down where there are fewer folks going to the hospital for this virus than not.”

Flaggs said the city is beginning to feel the pinch from the March 25 emergency declaration in response to COVID-19 that had people sheltering in place and forced some businesses to close.

The board Monday took an initial step to deal with the declining revenue by instituting a 60-day hiring freeze.

“Because of the limited stays, hotel residency is down 38 percent,” Flaggs said. “We have a significant decline in revenue; gaming (which makes up 16 percent of the city’s budget) is down, automobile sales are down.”

He said he met with the aldermen, adding, “We may have to make some decisions.”

Because of the hiring freeze, Flaggs said, “I just put our employees on notice that they may have to work a different position. We’ve got people now who are working in different positions because of the fact we are not hiring anybody.”

What he is trying to do, he said, is avoid furloughing and laying off employees.

“We have 412 employees and what we’re trying to do is keep them employed as long as we can keep them employed,” he said.

When asked about reopening restaurants and barbershops and beauty salons, Flaggs said he is waiting on Gov. Tate Reeves to set a timeline.

“I have every intention of having the restaurants open as quickly as I can, the beauty shops open as fast as I can,” he said. “But I can’t do anything unless the governor gives me an OK.

“What we’re trying to do, is we’re trying to reopen businesses in a phase that is safe. The governor has not mentioned anything to do more than what we’re doing,” Flaggs said.

He said any business caught operating before the order is given to reopen could face 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 and have their business license revoked.

“I have every intention that we enforce the law to save the lives of the people of Vicksburg,” he said. “The governor has a criteria, and then from the governor’s criteria, I can embrace that. I don’t have the authority to do other than what I’m doing.”

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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