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Candidate survey: Municipal candidates answer key question regarding city’s infrastructure

Editor’s note: This survey is only for those candidates taking part in the April 6 primaries. Mayoral candidates Daryl Hollingsworth and incumbent Mayor George Flaggs Jr., as well as South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour, were not included in this survey as they are not participating or do not have any challengers in the April 6 primary. The Post will have another round of questions for those taking part in the June 8 general election.

 

Infrastructure.

It’s the term used to describe a city’s systems of streets and utilities such as water, gas and sewer. They are the services the city relies on to serve residents and attract new businesses and residents to settle in the area. But much of Vicksburg’s water and sewer lines are more than 100 years old and in need of replacement and upgrades.

It’s a situation that has been discussed and approached by previous boards of mayor and aldermen.

The Vicksburg Post invited responses to four questions — one of which focused on Infrastructure — to the candidates competing in the April 6 party primaries. There are three candidates for mayor, two in the North Ward and two in the South Ward. Their unedited responses are being featured in a series of articles addressing one of the four topics. Infrastructure is the final topic. The first was economic development; the second was COVID-19. Public safety was the third topic.

 

Question: Parts of Vicksburg’s infrastructure — roads, water, sewage, etc. — are old and aging quickly. As (mayor/alderman), how would you address the challenges the city is facing with its current infrastructure? Be specific in any plans, programs, etc. you believe would be successful. Also, provide details on how the city would pay for those plans you believe are needed.

 

Candidates for the Democratic nomination for mayor:

Shawn Jackson: The best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago the second-best time is today. Let’s start today by making infrastructure updates 365 days a year. Like cars need oil changes, infrastructure requires ongoing servicing, not just when things go wrong.

I plan to (1) Establish a year-round maintenance and emergency fund (2) Bond against revenue from new home builds stemming from my citywide housing renewal plan (3) Levy special infrastructure assessments on our community friendly business partners (4) Call on state and White House relationships for assistance (5) Cost-share with the County.

 

Troy Kimble: Simply ask the people who know. I would meet with the dedicated tenured employees who work in the trenches to patch our debilitated infrastructure. In my bid for North Ward alderman in 2017, I proposed a plan for a redundant water system.  I support endeavors to retain knowledge and skills for in-house maintenance of infrastructure facilities.  Evaluation of the infrastructure workforce is imperative.  Everyone will carry their weight. I would visit proposals to increase pay to retain and recruit skilled infrastructure employees.  I also plan to proactively install technology devices and equipment to monitor and predict infrastructure issues for preventive measures.

 

Willis Thompson: Our residents deserve functional utility services. We have to realize that it is Vicksburg’s responsibility to take care of Vicksburg. A lot of cities across the nation face the challenge of funding costly infrastructure projects. We need a way to offset those expenses. The city is not a for-profit business. All revenues come from taxation. Borrowing money is not a permanent solution because the payments come from the general fund. Raising utility rates would only affect utility customers. Raising property taxes would be a burden for property owners because everyone is not a property owner. A sales tax increase makes the most sense. That way, everyone pays into the expense: property owners, non-property owners, county residents, and tourists. Literally, anyone who spends money in the city will contribute. There are no grants available and no higher elected state or national official is going to give one city millions of dollars based on their relationship alone with the locally elected officials. Vicksburg must take care of Vicksburg.

 

Candidates for North Ward alderman:

Michael Mayfield: As I arrived in city government, I discovered the infrastructure especially in the North Ward was deplorable due to age. With this discovery, the board hired a firm to examine all the water and sewer utilities. This initial process was vital due to the fact that most of the underground infrastructure is aged over 100 years. This examination was also a necessary step before implementing any road paving projects. After retrieving the results, the City floated a bond to repair and/or replace the old and aging infrastructure. This brought about the completion of the 592 Project. The 592 Project allows us to continue providing utility services to customers without fail.

 

Alfred Webb: These unfortunate challenges not only affect the city’s quality of life but also add stress on Parts of Vicksburg’s infrastructure. We can start by using infrastructure funds and grants to help improve water, roads, sewage, aging house improvement, and etc. Some of this can be done through rural development. We should consider using local contractors with some of these venues; however, this will help reduce cost.

 

Candidates for the Democratic nomination for South Ward alderman:

Vickie Bailey: Public health and safety are at the top of my list for this community; to ensure safe drinking water and the wastewater is treated before it is responsibly returned to the environment. I realize that our systems are facing financial and operational challenges. Since I do not have firsthand information on the current status and the pressing details about our true situation, I will not say what I can do right now. However, I realize that training and technical assistance grant funding is available to help cities.  You can be certain that I will diligent in pursuit of additional funding to aid Vicksburg in getting up and rolling expeditiously.

 

Thomas “TJ” Mayfield: The recent snowstorm and water outage in 2017 have shown us that we can no longer wait to fix a problem that this community has faced for a number of years. We must first use the relationships we have built on our state and national levels to seek funding for this problem. A city that sits on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi should not have these problems, especially when we have a federal government Engineering entity in town. We must also seek to tear down dilapidated buildings and replace them with bright innovation ideas such as community gardens, museums, picnic areas, & multipurpose areas.

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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