City of Vicksburg to put $1 million toward port project

Published 12:52 pm Friday, March 11, 2022

The proposed new port complex project is getting $1 million from the city of Vicksburg.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Thursday approved the transfer of $1 million from the city’s $3 million reserve fund to the Warren County Port Commission for the port, which is a joint project of the city, Warren County, Port Commission and the Vicksburg-Warren Partnership.

The money will be used for the acquisition of land within the new port site and other expenses related to purchasing the properties.

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The decision comes less than a month after the Warren County Board of Supervisors approved a similar transfer of $1 million in county funds.

Vicksburg’s reserve fund was established by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in 2013 to provide an available source of money in the event of a severe emergency.

“We said then that we had no intention to ever use this money unless it was an emergency or it was the best investment we could ever do. I believe this is the best investment we could ever do,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said.

Reading from a written statement, he said, “The City of Vicksburg is working jointly with the Warren County Board of Supervisors to develop a Public Port Complex South of I-20.

“This project has been discussed and studied at length and we know that the current port is out of room. If we want to continue to grow, our region desperately needs additional inland port infrastructure,” he said.

“This project will meet that public need and at the same time provide flood control to surrounding areas that have suffered from the effects of floodwaters in recent years.”

In comments at the start of Thursday’s meeting, Flaggs hinted at the board’s decision on the money, saying he has “never been so proud of the collaboration between these two boards.

“The collaboration  — working together — between two boards on an economic development project is so important,” he said. “The decision to merge or to consolidate economic development, the chamber, the (economic development) foundation and the port commission could not be more important.

“The Board of Supervisors have taken the lead on this; we just joined them,” Flaggs added. “By joining the Board of Supervisors in the decision we make today, Alderman (Alex) Monsour, Alderman (Michael) Mayfield, I could not be prouder of you. I assure you, your children and your children’s children will look on this and be proud. Vicksburg is on its way to compete. We should have done this long ago.”

“I would reinforce the mayor’s message that elected officials working together for the good of all our residents of Warren County is how we spend the best chance of moving this county forward and positive things happen,” Board of Supervisors President Kelle Barfield said.

When the supervisors approved their $1 million for the port project, Pablo Diaz, president and CEO of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership, said the South Port Complex development, or “Economic Development Project A,” as it has been called in meetings, is not intended to be a replacement for the current port of Vicksburg, located on Haining Road.

Instead, Diaz said, the South Port is intended to keep the momentum that began on Haining Road going.

The Port of Vicksburg is the 15th-largest inland port in the country based on millions of tons, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers data. According to the Partnership, the port supports 21 industries that employ 4,000 people.

A new port was first proposed in April 2018, when Flaggs included money for a port as part of a $55 million capital improvements bond issue funded by a special 1-cent sales tax. The sales tax issue was later dropped but the port idea gained traction with economic development officials paying for feasibility studies on the proposed project.

In December, the city and county boards approved a joint resolution to acquire 28 parcels of land between U.S. 61 South and the Mississippi River, totaling approximately 1,034 acres and totaling more than $830,000 in appraised value according to county tax records.

According to an aerial photograph of the area, the proposed site is located along the Mississippi River, south of Entergy’s Baxter Wilson power plant and the mouth of Hennessey’s Bayou. Entergy has announced it is shutting down the plant’s remaining generation unit and closing Baxter Wilson on May 31, 2022.

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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