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Vicksburg to benefit from state’s $291 million capital projects bill

The city of Vicksburg is the beneficiary of more than $5 million in state bond money.

Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill last week authorizing the state to issue $291 million in state bonds for capital projects across the state, with Vicksburg getting $5.3 million.

State Sen. Briggs Hopson III (R-Vicksburg), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the local money helps fund two projects in the city.

He said $1.2 million in bond funds goes toward the extension of the Vicksburg Forest Products levee along Haining Road. The remaining $3.9 million is allocated for work to complete the Mississippi Center for Innovation and Technology at the former Mississippi Hardware building.

Hopson believes the city was included in the bond package because state leaders “saw the work being done in the area, the strong leadership team we have in place here and an opportunity to have progress in the state.”

He said the bill also includes a provision reallocating any surplus money from the South Frontage Road extension project to the Port of Vicksburg for capital improvements.

The South Frontage Road extension project is currently under construction. T.L. Wallace Construction of Columbia submitted the low bid of $17.33 million for the project. The bid was more than $450,000 under the project’s estimate of $17.80 million.

“The original cost of the project was $18 million, but we think it’s going to come in less than that,” said state Rep. Kevin Ford (R-Vicksburg), who Hopson said got the port provision included in the bond bill.

“The money for the project was meant for Vicksburg and we want to make sure that any extra money does not go back into the state’s general fund,” Ford said. “We want it to go to the port for improvements and that equals jobs.”

Both city projects, officials say, have the potential for job creation.

“The money we received has the possibility of creating some jobs (at Vicksburg Forest Products),” said state Rep. Oscar Denton (D-Vicksburg). “I don’t know how many more we’ll have once they get the technology building complete, but that’s going to be huge.”

City officials propose extending the Vicksburg Forest Products levee west from its present location.

City Public Works Director Garnet Van Norman said in May that preliminary plans involve building a new levee “from Haining Road right at Long Lake Road and into the existing levee.”

He said the project will protect the city’s main water line in the area and benefit the Vicksburg Forest Products facility. The city has an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District for technical assistance on the project.

The Mississippi Center for Innovation and Technology was introduced in 2017 as a project to promote the development of new technology, technology transfer, and provide a resource to help people start companies and compete for contracts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center.

Technology transfer involves applying the research to produce an actual product and manufacturing it. In other words, taking the product from research to commercialization.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen on June 25 opened bids for the project’s second phase that includes all of the mechanical work as well as the preparation of the floors, wiring, elevator, staircases and security. The work is funded by $2.5 million in 2019 state bond funds.

Pablo Diaz, president and CEO of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership, said the $3.9 million in state bonds “puts us one step closer to being able to finalize that project and open it on schedule, which is a very exciting proposition right now.

“We at the Economic Development District are very pleased with the results of the work of our senators and representatives in Jackson. Certainly, both of those allocations are going to be great for economic development,” Diaz said. 

He called the provision allocating any surplus from the South Frontage Road extension to the port “a very great move” and economic development officials are waiting to see what surplus remains when the extension is completed.

“I applaud Sen. Briggs Hopson, Rep. Ford and Rep. Denton for what they have done for the city of Vicksburg,” Mayor George Flaggs said. “I think it has been a great year (for the city). Given the shortage of money, the Legislature was very good to us. I think it’s a testament to having a lieutenant governor and speaker and a governor who knows the importance of Vicksburg to the future of Mississippi.”

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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