Flaggs, Monsour talk animal shelter

Published 8:15 pm Friday, May 24, 2024

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen during its regular meeting Friday approved a resolution for interim City Clerk Deborah Nickson to advertise sealed bids for site work at the city’s new animal shelter still under construction on Highway 61 South.

Community Development Director Jeff Richardson told the board the eventual contract would include work to the entrance drive, fencing, walkways and the shelter’s parking lot.

“At the top of your head, what’s the total cost now before the bid goes out, for how much we’re paying for the animal shelter,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. asked, while adding the city has not yet eclipsed the original $1.5 million price tag attached to the project.

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Richardson said he did not have up-to-date numbers at the time of the meeting; however, Projects Financial Manager Nancy Allen told the board the city was still within the original budget.

“We’re still within that $1.5 million figure,” Allen said. “The actual construction part will be taken from the infrastructure improvement.”

Flaggs said it is important to be transparent about the cost of the shelter as growing concerns among residents are being voiced.

“There’s an issue out there that we’re spending more money for the animal shelter than we do for blightness, houses and etc.,” Flaggs said. “The animal shelter is a function of the city’s services and it has been ignored for years. It’s in a flood-prone area. It’s a disaster.”

The current shelter is more than 50 years old and sits on a tract of land on Old Mill Road that has been subject to frequent flooding issues.  

“It’s incumbent, on me I know, to make sure the service that is provided by the city is of quality and at the least cost to the taxpayers,” Flaggs said.

Flaggs and Monsour each acknowledged the delays to construction at the shelter, which was originally scheduled for completion in February, but implored residents to be patient.

“The existing structure was upgraded in the late (19)80s, when we assumed the old Valley Mill property,” Richardson said. “Before that, they operated out of the garage of the now-traffic department. And we’ve been needing a new facility.”

Monsour, who is now overseeing the project, said the animal shelter has been an issue spanning a number of administrations over more than two decades. 

“When this administration came in 2017, we committed to making this happen,” he said. “It had been tried for 20 years prior to that. For the people that are complaining because we’re not moving fast enough, we are investing the money for a new facility. We’re blessed enough for an individual in the City of Vicksburg donating the building, which saved probably another million dollars or better. This is going to be a facility – once it’s open, you’ll see – that everybody will be proud of. Just give us a little time to get it up.”

Richardson added issues born of the Covid-19 pandemic also led to delays in the project while Flaggs said, ultimately, the wait will be worth it for the quality the new shelter will bring for the residents it will serve.

“I’d rather go slow and build it right, than go fast and build it wrong,” Flaggs said.