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Donated building, property moving closer to becoming city’s new animal shelter

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said Thursday that the city of Vicksburg is still on track to take possession of a piece of property that it will turn into a new animal shelter.

In late September, the city of Vicksburg agreed to accept the donation from Ernest Thomas of the property and building at 4845 Highway 61 South. Flaggs said then that he hoped to close on the transaction by December or January, and on Thursday he said nothing so far during the due diligence has caused concern or reason to delay taking possession of the property by the end of the year.

The due diligence process is where the city evaluates every component of the building and property.

“I have been overwhelmingly pleased with the process and the due diligence thus far,” Flaggs said. “We will soon be at a point to determine the best course, and the best design for the next animal shelter, which I am completely confident will be completed in 2021.”

City Attorney Nancy Thomas said she, too, expects the city to be able to close on the property by the end of the year.

“We have done the environmental and found a little bit of asbestos in the building, in the floor tile in a part of the building that we do not anticipate using, so that is not a big deal,” she said. “We currently have a 15-foot easement in the back of the property with AT&T and have asked for a 20-feet easement. They’ve indicated they do not think that is a problem and are waiting to hear back from them.”

Nancy Thomas said the survey of the property is nearly completed, the rezoning has been approved, and the property is currently getting appraised. A few issues in the title search are also being worked out.

“It is not anything insurmountable,” Nancy Thomas said. “We should be ready to close by the end of the year.”

Some individuals and groups concerned about the proposed site for the new shelter have raised worries of potential flooding at the 61 South property. Nancy Thomas said this property does not have a history of flooding.

“The flood map shows that the southwest corner of the building may be in a flood zone, but we are going to request a map change. Mr. Thomas has owned it since 1976 and indicated it has never gotten water,” she said. “We are not really concerned about any flooding issues.”

According to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality’s flood zone map, a portion of the building — the southwest corner — falls into a flood zone. It is not clear in the report at what level the Mississippi River would need to reach in order to threaten the building.

Nancy Thomas said the 61 South property did not take on any water during the historic flood in 2011.

As for the cost of needed renovations and build-out for the new shelter, Flaggs said those plans have not been drawn up.

“We have not put a budget together for it yet, because we have not closed on the property or finalized a design,” Flaggs said. “But I know exactly where the money is, I know how much I want to recommend to the board that we spend on the project. At this point, I see no reason why we cannot have a shelter completed in 2021.”

He said the funding for the shelter is available to the city “without borrowing money or raising taxes.” Flaggs said those discussions on how much and from what source the funding will come will be had after the city has taken possession of the property.

Flaggs said Community Development Director Jeff Richardson and Animal Shelter Director Kaci Lindsey will be among those leading the work designing the new shelter.

According to Nancy Thomas, the property being donated is 1.9 acres and the building measures 14,000 square feet. It is expected the new shelter will take up about half of the building space. Nancy Thomas said the rest could be used by the city for additional storage or other uses.

About Tim Reeves

Tim Reeves, and his wife Stephanie, are the parents of three children, Sarah Cameron, Clayton and Fin, who all attend school in the Vicksburg Warren School District. The family are members of First Baptist Church Vicksburg. Tim is involved in a number of civic and volunteer organizations including the United Way of West Central Mississippi and serves on the City of Vicksburg's Riverfront Redevelopment Committee.

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