RICHARDSON: Progress being made on Animal Shelter

Published 4:00 am Sunday, April 16, 2023

By Jeff Richardson | Guest Columnist

In the mid-1980s, the city acquired an abandoned industrial site that manufactured various types of animal food.

One of those buildings was converted into a holding kennel and office space for the Animal Control Department. The remodeling of the 2,200-square-foot building was the first step by the city to bring the Animal Control Department into the 20th century, and the first Vicksburg Animal Shelter was formed.

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The Mississippi River Flood of 2011 revealed many problems and maintenance issues at the aging Animal Shelter. The main issue was the four feet of water covering the site during the flood. To compound the 2011 flood, flash flood events also inundated the facility during heavy rains.

The second major concern was the concrete floors and cinder block walls. There was no moisture barrier between the low-lying ground and the concrete floor. The concrete floors and cinder block walls were absorbing the effluent from the ground, flooding, the animals, and the cleaning solutions for many years. Because of the porous concrete, sealers and paint will not stick to the surfaces.

This makes it very difficult to maintain a clean facility, despite the best efforts of the staff. The size and layout were also in need of improvements. As a temporary solution, the City moved an office trailer onto the site for the staff to use as an office, bathroom, break room, laundry and storage.

This provided the staff with much-needed room. It also moved the office out of the very noisy kennel building — allowing most of the cats out of the dog kennel room.

The city of Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen decided in the fall of 2018 to pursue constructing a new facility. Many potential locations were investigated and explored. Citizen input was gathered in community meetings with the board and staff. These meetings produced a lot of passion, discussion and opinions.

Though there were many different ideas for solutions, the overriding view from everyone was unanimous — the need for a new facility. Ernest Thomas, a local businessman, contacted city officials and offered to donate one of his properties. The city accepted his offer and began the process of converting the existing metal building into the city’s new Animal Shelter. Then, COVID-19 hit.

Almost every city project came to a halt, including the new Animal Shelter. We did not know how the pandemic was going to affect the budget. Then in January 2021, the Board directed the staff to move forward with plans to build the new shelter.

This has been a challenge — balancing the needs and wants of the staff and the realities of the associated costs to deliver a workable new Animal Shelter for the City of Vicksburg. But it is being done. The second round of advertising bids opened on Jan. 10, 2023. We are all hoping for positive results.

Jeff Richardson serves as Community Development Director for the city of Vicksburg. This column was originally published in the city of Vicksburg’s spring newsletter.