DING DING DING: City of Vicksburg approves trolley purchase

Published 2:01 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Vicksburg is getting another trolley.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday approved the purchase of a trolley from Creative Bus Sales Inc. of Chino, Calif. for $255,055. Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the cost of the trolley will be split between the board and the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.

VCVB Executive Director Laura Beth Strickland, however, said the VCVB Board of directors has not taken action on the trolley, adding it will be discussed at the VCVB Board’s meeting on Thursday.

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The VCVB Board discussed the trolley at its Aug. 30 meeting but did not approve any money for it. Strickland said at the time the city was looking for a verbal agreement so it would know how to proceed.

Flaggs said the trolley will be open for community use and could be available when the cruise boats come to Vicksburg. The VCVB, he said, will be responsible for leasing the vehicle for events like weddings or family reunions. It will not be affiliated with NRoute.

“It’s a community asset; the community will have access to it. We won’t have to deal with government regulations,” Flaggs said.

“This is going to be something the city of Vicksburg will have influence on and be able to take care of during events going in the city of Vicksburg and they (tourists) will be able to go up and down in the city,” Ward 2 Alderman Alex Monsour said.

NRoute, the city’s public transportation service, bought the city’s present trolley in December 2014 using federal and city funds, with 80 percent of its $192,979 cost paid by a federal transportation grant and the city paying the 20 percent match totaling $38,595.

When the trolley was introduced in December 2015, NRoute and city officials were excited about its potential to help the city’s tourism industry and enhance the downtown area.

But in the almost seven years since its introduction, the trolley has failed to meet the aspirations city officials had for it.

The trolley began a route through the downtown area but the cost of maintenance and low ridership eventually forced it off the streets and it has spent most of its time parked at the city’s parking garage at South and Walnut streets.

Additionally, the regulations tied to the federal grant used to buy the trolley restricted how the vehicle can be used. City officials tried to work out an agreement with NRoute to use the trolley but later dropped the idea because it was too complicated.

City officials also decided against buying the present trolley, citing its $177,000 price tag and high maintenance costs.

Flaggs said at a June board meeting he was interested in joining forces with the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau to buy a trolley.

“The city and the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureaus are in the process of buying its own trolley,” he said at the time.

After Monday’s meeting, Flaggs said NRoute’s $177,000 price tag for its trolley was too much “and it’s broken down I don’t know how many times. It’s (the price) is crazy; we’re saving $78,000 and getting a brand new one.

“What they were proposing from NRoute didn’t make any sense with me,” he said. “(It) didn’t make no sense to a drunk man. Buying a trolley at $177,000 with that many years of sitting down there. That was a disaster. We got off and the people got off and now we don’t have the stipulations or regulations and it’s ours.”

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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