Vicksburg Fire Department to get new $1.8 million aerial truck; Police Department switching to 9 mm handguns

Published 4:30 pm Friday, August 5, 2022

The Vicksburg Fire Department is getting a new 100-foot aerial platform truck to replace an older truck in its fleet.

The estimated $1.8 million truck was the only item approved Thursday as the Board of Mayor and Aldermen held a series of budget meetings with city department heads to discuss capital items such as projects and equipment. With the exception of the new fire truck, all other budget requests were taken under advisement by the board.

City officials are looking at a $33.12 million budget for fiscal 2023 that does not include employee pay raises but includes money to hire a civil engineer and an urban planner. Both positions, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. has said, are necessary for the city’s future.

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Under state law, the board is required to have a new budget in place by Sept. 15. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1. A public hearing on the budget has not been set.

“The good news about yesterday’s budget hearing is that the department heads were able to submit budgets and are going to have to run their departments on the same budget for two years straight,” Flaggs said Friday. “The only thing they presented was capital needs.”

The board moved on the fire truck after discussing the fire department’s capital equipment needs with Fire Chief Craig Danczyk.

“We have not bought a big ladder truck in 21 years and we have two in the fleet — one is 21 years old and one is 29 years old,” Danczyk said. “The 29-year-old truck is kind of any day; it’s so old (that) every day we get out of it is a blessing.”

Danczyk said it would take about 25 months to build the truck after it was ordered and it would probably be ready in 2025.

“We would not have to pay any money upfront until we received it,” he said. “There’s zero way to get this truck in one budget year and then it would take every bit of two budget years.”

He said the truck would replace the 29-year-old Ladder 14. Platform 1, the department’s other 21-year-old platform truck, would be a backup aerial.

“If we order now, it won’t be ready until 2025,” Flaggs said. “We don’t start paying until we receive it? Get it.”

Flaggs said after the meeting the decision to buy the truck was the right move.

“You only have to start paying for it in 2025 and based on the condition of the ones you have now, I think it makes sense,” he said. “Why should I wait, when it takes so long to build it and I’m not going to start paying on it on a lease purchase until 2025.”

The mayor called the proposed budget “a fiscally responsible budget because of the big ticket items coming down the pipe and the loss of revenue from Baxter Wilson.”

Entergy closed its Baxter Wilson power plant on Kemp Bottom Road in May, resulting in an annual loss of $760,990 in property tax revenue.

“I’m confident we’ll be able to balance the budget and I’m confident we’ll continue to move forward providing the best quality service with the least cost to the taxpayer,” Flaggs said. “In six months, I will be open to looking at a raise, but not now as a matter of protection.”

The decision to wait on the raises, he said, was to protect the budget until the board gets a better idea of the cost of “big ticket items” like improvements at the city’s water treatment plant at Haining Road, a new elevated tank in the southern part of the city and improvements at the wastewater treatment plant on Rifle Range Road.

“And include eminent domain (to acquire property for the new port); that was a big ticket item, and the matching funds for the ARPA (American Recovery Plan Act) money,” he said, adding some ARPA funds for tourism and public safety are included in the budget. “What I have created (with the budget) is a safeguard for the city going forward.”

Flaggs said $1 million of the city’s reserve fund was used to acquire property for the new port.

Other major budget requests included:

• Water treatment plant: $7.12 million for clarifier piping, a new well, system upgrades and a new elevated water tank.

• Sewer mains: $5 million for utility plant and system upgrades.

• Police Department: Renovations to police department buildings and a surveillance station for NOLA cameras, $30,000; five equipped Dodge Chargers to replace high-mileage cars, $219,000; Glock Model 17 9mm handguns with three magazines, Glock Model 43X 9mm handguns with two magazines, Glock 44 .22-caliber handgun, 9mm SBR rifle for the SWAT team, body armor, holsters, tasers and a 40mm LMT launcher for the SWAT team, $213,291. The launcher would be used by SWAT to launch things such as tear gas canisters.

Deputy Chief Mike Bryant said the Chargers will have six-cylinder engines and all-wheel drive. He said Dodge does not make all-wheel drive Chargers with V-8 engines.

Bryant said the police department wants to switch from the .357-caliber Glock officers presently carry to 9mm handguns. He said the special ammunition for the .357s is $100 more per case than a case of 9mm ammunition and the department can save money by making the change.

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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