Vicksburg borrowing $1.5 million to build animal shelter

Published 4:39 pm Monday, March 20, 2023

The city of Vicksburg is borrowing $1.5 million to build the city’s animal shelter on U.S. 61 South.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday approved taking out a five year, short-term note to pay for the project, which has a construction budget of $1.26 million. City accounting director Doug Whittington said the city is seeking $1.5 million for a cushion to cover any additional costs that may arise during construction.

“We are financing this over five years because it makes better sense than to take reserve money or any other money out of the general fund to pay for it,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “We extend it over five years and get the payment where we can afford it rather than to go out and use reserve money and any other money that’s in the general fund.

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“I think it’s absolutely imperative to protect the integrity of the cash flow going forward,” he added.

Flaggs also said the city may only need to use $1 million because it has about $262,000 available to cover some of the project costs.

“This is money left over from other (general fund) budget items, so we actually won’t need but $1 million,” Flaggs said. “There’s no ARPA (American Recovery Program Act) in the payment of this thing; I absolutely wasn’t going to use ARPA money. It’s clear sailing now; we’re on our way.”

The board in February approved an agreement with Fordice Construction to build the new animal shelter.

Fordice was the low bidder on the project with a bid of $1,263,700. The bid included one alternate, or extra project, to install lights for the shelter’s parking lot for $10,800. Flaggs said when the bids were open in January that the total cost for the project will be about $1.3 million, which included the project engineer’s cost. That cost is separate from the construction bid, he said.

City employees, Community Development Director Jeff Richardson said in February, will do the site preparation work.

City officials have considered a new animal shelter for several years. The current shelter is more than 50 years old and sits on a tract of land on Old Mill Road adjacent to the Vicksburg Fire Department’s training center in the Kings community.

The shelter is in a flood zone and is subject to being surrounded by flash flooding. It was threatened by the 2019 flood and animals had to be evacuated in the 2011 flood. City officials considered several potential sites, including city property in a section of Cedar Hill Cemetery off Sky Farm Avenue.

On Feb. 21, 2020, Flaggs, other city officials and city resident Marilyn Terry, who provided a recommendation for a shelter building, toured the former U.S. Rubber Reclaiming plant off U.S. 61 South, which is owned by the city and located in a flood zone, and a site in the 2100 block of Oak Street, south of Depot Street.

Problems with the Oak Street property forced city officials to remove the site from consideration. The board also considered a 14.3-acre tract at 4211 Rifle Range Road owned by Cappaert Holdings LLP, but the city said it could not afford the $1.5 million to buy the land and build the shelter.

The board in September 2020 accepted the donation of property and a metal building at 4845 U.S. 61 South from the Ernest Thomas family as the site for a new shelter.

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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