• 73°

‘Out of the animal shelter business’: Vicksburg Mayor recuses himself from planning of new animal shelter

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said he has recused himself from anything to do with the City of Vicksburg Animal Shelter and its new facility.

Flaggs took answers from the public at his 100 Days open mic question-and-answer session Wednesday night. When asked about progress on the updated animal shelter, the mayor said he is no longer working on it after the criticism he received online and after members of the community got the aldermen to change their minds on the location of the building.

In the fall, the mayor and aldermen Michael Mayfield and Alex Monsour said the proposed shelter location’s price at Rifle Ridge Road was out of range for the city. The board became aware of the 14.3-acre Rifle Range Road property in August, which at the time was estimated to cost more than $1 million for the purchase of the property and construction of the facility.

However, last night Flaggs said Mayfield and Monsour have changed their stance on this.

“Now I’m out of the animal (shelter) business,” Flaggs said. “It’s Mayfield and Monsour and whatever they want to do.”

However, Flaggs said they would not be spending the city’s money on that property for the new animal shelter. He said people get upset with him for running the city like a business, but it is a business — the taxpayer’s business.

“I am not, emphatically not, going to buy a piece of property at $1.2 million for a shelter on Rifle Ridge Road,” Flaggs said. “We only paid $1.4 million for the fire station. It makes no sense to a grown man, and I’m emphatically not going with it.”

He said he will not be raising taxpayer’s money on the animal shelter.

He said that the most insulted he has ever been in politics was on his inauguration day, when a meeting was held about the shelter at the same time as his inauguration.

“Now if that wasn’t an insult, what was it?” Flaggs said. “We are supposed to be talking about working together, and starting the term off in unity, and then they turn around and want to meet at the same time when they knew (the inauguration) had been publicized months earlier.”

Flaggs said he would not have done that to anybody and that pushed him out of the business of the animal shelter. He said if people have questions or concerns about the shelter, they can contact Mayfield and Monsour.

The push for a new animal shelter began last fall, when a petition on change.org was started in September to stop the delay of purchasing the land and building the shelter. The petition stated the reasons for needing a new shelter were that the current shelter is too small and “not suitable for humans or animals.”

In September 2020, city leaders agreed to accept 1.9 acres of property at 4845 Highway 61 South that was donated by Ernest Thomas. The property is just north of Mid-South Lumber and Supply on U.S. 61 South.

Flaggs said at the time that accepting the donation was just the first part of a multi-phase effort for a new shelter.

In November 2020, he said he was “completely confident” it would be completed in 2021.

Since then, some progress has been made on the site — most notably, the city was granted an easement from AT&T, which provided a better point of access to the property on Highway 61 South.

A local advocate group expressed concerns regarding the new shelter location, even consulting with Arlington, Texas-based Shelter Planners of America to view the proposed site and the current shelter.

“We need to move forward with where we are, because we’re in an excellent position to get a shelter within this next year,” shelter activist Marilyn Terry said at a recent meeting. “They’re going to sit down and take this proposal and evaluate and see what is the best solution for Vicksburg.”

In June of this year, the animal shelter released a public cry for help, citing overcrowding and fears that animals would be euthanized due to space constraints.