Vicksburg Mayor gets suggestions, criticism at animal shelter meeting

Published 3:35 pm Thursday, October 6, 2022

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. listened to suggestions and complaints about the city’s handling of Vicksburg’s proposed new animal shelter project on Wednesday night — before announcing he was calling a special meeting on Thursday to reject the two bids on the project and re-bid it.

Flaggs called the Wednesday night meeting to discuss possible ways to fund the project after the Board of Mayor and Aldermen received two bids that were over its $1.67 million budget.

J E Stevens Construction Group of Flowood was the low bidder on the project with a $1.795 million base bid, while Fordice Construction of Vicksburg had a $1.95 million base bid.

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When the base bids were combined with the bids for the four proposed alternates or extra features, Stevens’ total bid was about $1.958 million, while the total Fordice bid came in at about $2.187 million.

Flaggs offered five funding suggestions: Do nothing, raise property taxes, dip into the city’s reserve fund, use creative financing, or convince the Mississippi Legislature to allow the city to use state capital improvement funds set aside for roads and bridges for the shelter.

Two forms of funding, he said later, were “off the table” — increasing property taxes and using American Recovery Plan Act funds. Pointing out that ARPA funds were to help local and state governments recover lost revenue because of COVID-19, Flaggs said, “I don’t think it (the shelter) qualifies.”

Initial discussions about a new animal shelter began in 2019. Wednesday night, Flaggs came under criticism for not acting sooner on the shelter project.

“Two-and-a-half years ago was when we started this with you,” resident Dianne Gargaro said. “We knew it was going to take a lot of money. We set up the Friends of the Shelter Society so they could do fundraisers. Nothing’s ever been approved to do a fundraiser. You haven’t done anything to find the money you knew you were going to need, because the shelter’s not going to build itself.”

Gargaro suggested the city use $1 million of its reserve fund to begin construction of the shelter and let the Friends of the Shelter raise the balance while construction was underway.

Flaggs rejected the idea, saying he has never “built anything unless the money is in the bank. I’ve never done it; don’t intend to do it. To wait and raise and then you get in the middle of the construction and you don’t make your budget, it’s not going to happen.”

The mayor said he intended to keep his commitment to building the shelter.

The board was asked if they had looked at other shelters and Ward 1 Alderman Michael Mayfield said he, Animal Shelter Director Kacie Lindsey and Community Development Director Jeff Richardson had traveled to look at a shelter in Greenwood.

Flaggs was also asked if the board has considered a public-private venture for the shelter.

Flaggs later reminded people that the board would reject and readvertise the bids and said work would begin on the shelter in about 45 days, pointing out that it would take 30 days after the city advertised it was soliciting bids before they would receive them.

“I think we can get it done; trust me,” he said.

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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