Flaggs delivers State of the City address

Published 10:06 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. delivered the annual State of the City address Tuesday at the Robert M. Walker Building, where he touched briefly on the accomplishments and struggles of city government in 2023, as well as its goals for 2024.

“Let me just share with you that it’s been a very productive year in 2023,” Flaggs said. “I think we’re on the road to a great path to the future.”

During his speech, Flaggs touched on accomplishments in 2023 in the areas of economic development, infrastructure, tourism, crime and recreation.

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Flaggs pointed to a number of key economic accomplishments as evidence of a successful calendar year in Vicksburg, including:

  • Bringing in millions of dollars from State and Federal Government for projects:
  • Fisher Ferry Bridge Repair — $4 million
  • Vicksburg Animal Shelter — $1.5 million
  • Water Treatment Plant Improvement Project — $1.6 million
  • Street Paving inside city limits — $3.5 million
  • Iowa Blvd Emergency Repair/Stabilization Project — $800,000
  • Washington Street Park Improvements — $173,000
  • Levee Street Pedestrian Safety Circulation Project (for bus parking, sidewalks, lighting, railroad safety railing) — $700,000
  • Riverfront Development — $3.5 million
  • Brownfield Community-wide Assessment — $300,000
  • Brownfield Cleanup (Rubber Plant Property) — $900,000
  • Constitution Firehouse Galley Building renovations — $200,000
  • Moody’s reinstated an A2 Bond Rating for City Government
  • Balanced the City budget for 10 years without raising taxes
  • Maintained $3 million in a reserve fund
  • Received a consistently clear independent audit of City finances

“I think that ought to be noted,” Flaggs said of balancing the city’s budget without raising taxes. “We haven’t raised taxes, in effect, since (1991). But I certainly haven’t raised any since I’ve been here.”

Flaggs also noted the $3 million in reserve funds listed is now at approximately $1.4 million following a land acquisition for the Warren County Port.

In the realm of economic development, Flaggs noted a number of milestones in 2023, including:

  • 780 permits were issued since January of 2023, collecting $59,307.50 in fees.
  • 3,012 inspections were completed with an additional 417 open cases.
  • 1,040 privilege licenses were issued.
  • Five-year housing plan adopted by board on October 10, 2023.
  • Launched a Housing Revitalization Initiative with the NAACP to provide safe and stable housing for city residents
  • NPS approved new Riverfront Park conversion, now city and county can proceed with accepting the Golding’s donation of the property and move forward with the transition.
  • Progress on the Civil Rights Park on the site of the former Kuhn Memorial Hospital
  • Updated police department’s record management system
  • Implement first stage of public safety radio encryption
  • Remodeled Robert M. Walker Building Board Room
  • New Roof on Fire Station #7
  • Exterior stabilization improvements of the Old Vicksburg Library, including a new roof, old boiler removal, upgrade of electrical service. Window repair and paint, new doors, woodwork, paint and repair, wiring and internet wiring
  • Ardis T. Williams City Auditorium remodeled to have new carpet, handrails, plaster, and paint
  • Enhanced recreation opportunities and facilities at the King’s Playground
  • Vicksburg state-of-the-art animal shelter nearing completion
  • The legal department successfully validated $1.5 million note in Chancery Court for new animal shelter
  • Maintained the City fire rating, effectively lowering insurance rates for city residents and businesses.

“I think that speaks volumes for the city,” Flaggs said of the five-year housing plan. “We’re moving forward on that. I think we got a couple of housing meetings scheduled with some people coming from the other side.”

In reference to the city’s stable housing initiative, Flaggs said, “You know and I know, we rolled around and there’s a lot of blightness around in this city. And what we’ve done, we’ve partnered with the NAACP at $15,000 a pop, and that’s with getting those houses back up. We’re still in Marcus Bottom and we’re about to go outside of Marcus Bottom and do some things.”

In relation to infrastructure, Flaggs pointed to improvements, including:

  • FEMA Public Assistance 2020 Flooding/Erosion Project completed for roads Stirgus, Greenhill, and Crestline
  • Completed street paving for 25 streets inside the City of Vicksburg
  • Planning is underway for a large-scale urban renewal project that will create economic growth and improve the quality of life in Vicksburg for generations to come
  • Nearing the completion of the state-of-the-art Mississippi Center for Innovation and Technology Transfer (MCITy) and named it after the late Senator Thad Cochran.

In the area of tourism, Flaggs mentioned:

  • Vicksburg was recognized on the “Today” show as a “must stop” travel destination on the Mississippi River for 2024
  • Enhanced the Washington Street Park with VICKSBURG lettering
  • City currently has several riverboats that dock in Vicksburg on a regular basis, bringing in more than 30,000 annual visitors
  • Revitalized downtown Vicksburg with millions of dollars in investments and improvements by providing tax breaks
  • Created an opportunity to improve our waterfront at no cost to taxpayers by working with riverboat companies.

In the area of crime, Flaggs pointed to numerical data, including:

  • The legal department prosecuted 6,121 cases where 3,768 persons were found guilty; 705 charges were dismissed; 324 charges were dismissed based on a person paying charges; seven were found not guilty; 100 were non-adjudicated; 339 were bound to Grand Jury; and 201 were remanded by the court
  • Created the Vicksburg-Warren County Youth Development Center to improve the quality of life of at-risk youth and their families and to increase academic performance and reduce youth violence
  • Installed more than 30 NOLA cameras in the City of Vicksburg, which helped to solve two homicides in 2023
  • Updated police department with new car/personal body equipment for officer and citizen safety
  • Updated police department’s record management system
  • Implemented first stage of public safety radio encryption

In the realm of recreation, Flaggs listed a number of accomplishments and improvements, including:

  • Facilitated disaster relief to the City of Rolling Fork due to the March 2023 tornado.
  • Vicksburg Police Department participated in the Mississippi Smiles Campaign distributing food, water, cleaning supplies, and personal items to elderly residents of Vicksburg
  • Appointed as Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative Co-Chair, a coalition of 104 mayors along the Mississippi River, which spans nearly a third of the country.
  • Raised Vicksburg’s City Government minimum wage and gave 2% pay raise and longevity pay.
  • Employees now have access to check stubs on the online portal
  • City switched from printing paper checks to online self-service to save on printing costs
  • Implemented DUO MFA to prevent malware, phishing and ransomware attacks
  • Changed vendors for City’s phone system with savings of over $2000 monthly
  • Updated CODERED and BFAC to reach a larger audience
  • Human Resources Manual completely revamped to make it easier and clearer for employees
  • 105 new hires for the City of Vicksburg in 2023 — each new hire participated in mandatory orientation and received a copy of the updated manual.

Flaggs also listed specific goals for 2024, including:

  1. Crime reduction
  2. Port — 500 jobs creation
  3. MCITy completion
  4. Riverfront development enhancements
  5. Riverfront Park completion
  6. Retail development
  7. Housing Development
  8. Vicksburg National Military Park Interpretive Center
  9. Address population decline
  10. City Charter reform
  11. Vicksburg Police Department goals and objectives