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Passionate residents speak out over the future of the Vicksburg Animal Shelter

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An overflow crowd of nearly 200 residents showed up to talk about the future of Vicksburg's animal shelter. (photo by Kami May)

A standing-room-only crowd of nearly 200 residents met to discuss the future of the Vicksburg Animal Shelter during a public forum at the Robert Walker Annex Building Tuesday evening.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr.’s hope for the meeting was to update the city of the plans for a possible new shelter and take comments from the public in attendance. Going into the meeting, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen had proposed to increase sales taxes by 2 percent for capital improvements, which the mayor did not want to do.

“I have not raised nor voted to raise taxes in the 33 years I have been a politician,” Flaggs said. “I have every intention in running this city without ever making a tax increase, but we can’t have everything and expect taxes to stay the same.”

Flaggs said an animal shelter is just one of the many things Vicksburg needs, mentioning a new fire station, paving roads and redeveloping the downtown riverfront.

Shelter Director Kacie Lindsey shared a list of what she hopes to have in a new shelter. The 50-year-old structure was converted from a Valley Mills factory—which, ironically, made dog and cat food—to the facility we know today. The Vicksburg Animal Shelter is located in the heart of the Kings community, which has had annual flooding since 2011, and Lindsey hopes to have a facility out of the flood zone. She also mentioned that the shelter is outgrowing the current facility and it has forced staff and volunteers to place dogs and cats in the same room.

“Cats being in the same room with dogs causes a very stressed cat (and) that will cause the cat to get sick very quickly,” Lindsey said.

The shelter does not have a quarantine area for sick dogs, which potentially spreads diseases to healthy dogs. What a sick dog doesn’t spread, the bacteria in the floor will. 

“The floors are not sealed and contain parvo,” Lindsey said. “There is not a proper drainage system on the inside, so there is just standing water collecting bacteria that builds up over time.”

Lindsey said she would also love to have an intake room to assess animals for illnesses or injuries. 

Lindsey, along with Community Development Director Jeff Richardson and North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield, who is over Public Works including the animal shelter, visited a humane society that just recently opened in Greenville, Miss.

“We went to look for a design and see how much it would cost to build one in Vicksburg,” Richardson said.

He mentioned the national average is $475 per square foot, and it is his hope to find something between $250 and $300 per square foot. 

The cost of the Greenville facility was $850,000 cash. It could have cost much more except for large numbers of in-kind and monetary donations.

“They got the building built for almost free. The plumbing was in-kind—HVAC, decorations and cabinets—all in-kind,” Richardson said.

A voice from the crowd yelled, “What about grants?”

“Grants are not what they used to be,” Mayor Flaggs answered. “Grants want projects that are shovel ready. Brick-and-mortar grants don’t exist for animal shelters anymore.”

“If we want the shelter I think we want, we are going to have to pay for it,” he added.

Lindsey also chimed in. “We have issues getting grants and assistance because we are not a 501(c)(3) (nonprofit),” she said. “We are a municipality, so that stops us from getting a lot of stuff that the Human Society or a rescue shelter would get.”

The animal shelter falls under the city’s Animal Control Department. Some of the department’s responsibilities include enforcing leash laws, removing vicious and stray animals, animal rescue, facility maintenance, and capturing and removing wild animals.

“We got on calls to trap and pick up animals,” Richardson said. “We are also involved in court cases, so it’s not just a pet housing mission. It’s an enforcement mission.”

The crowd spilled out into the hallway and a nearby training room. (photo by David Day)

When the floor was opened to public comments, Vickburg resident Marilyn Terry was ready. She came with brochures, posters and, most importantly, outside-the-box ideas for funding.

“I think we need to work together as a community to make this shelter what it needs to be,” Terry said. “We can’t always rely on the city to do everything.” 

One of Terry’s ideas was using a custom dog-kennel company based in Lancaster, Penn., called The Dog Kennel Collection. The company offers Amish-made commercial kennels for animal shelters. 

“Everything is customizable, and they have a 30-year guarantee. The cost is $113,645 for the main part and an additional $66,000 for a waiting area and isolation,” Terry said, saying the estimate is based on Lindsey’s specifications. “I knew cost would be an issue, so I just wanted to come up with a cost-effective idea.”

Terry also suggested forming a “‘Friends of the Shelter” nonprofit to receive tax breaks and donations. Her idea came from an existing non-profit group in Vicksburg, Friends of the National Military Park.

Following Terry’s comments, a voice from the back row yelled out: “Come on down to the shelter, Mr. Flaggs, where we have biting flies and mosquitoes all over you and the animals. Puppies in one little area, where if you don’t socialize with them on a regular basis, become aggressive by six months. Come on down to the shelter and walk through the water we walk through to get a dog outside. Come on down to the shelter and experience the heat in the summertime.”

The frustrated voice continued, “Success stories are awesome, but we got dogs dying from parvo all the time because of the bacteria-filled floodwaters. These people are working on a less-than-a-shoestring budget while we are spending money on a road to a mall that don’t exist.”

Alderman Mayfield, who is accountable for the animal shelter, had remained fairly quiet until another angry voice called him out for “not doing your job.” 

“Moneywise, let’s talk money, ” Mayfield said. “There is nothing stopping the City of Vicksburg from finding money. There’s nothing stopping the county from joining in on our efforts, but how much are we willing to pay for it? How many bells and whistles? We have to find out where the money will come from—inside, outside funding and where the in-kind will come from.”

Right before Flaggs’ closing remarks, a resident questioned why the Khun Hospital property couldn’t be the site for a new shelter.

“The Khun property sat for a whole year and nobody wanted anything to do with it, including building a jail, so I have found another project to go at that location,” Flaggs said.

“You want a shelter?” Flaggs asked. “Let’s build a shelter.” 

Flaggs asked Terry to gather more information on the Amish company and then called for another public meeting on March 12.

News

USACE publishes mainline levees Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement

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Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published its Final Supplement II to the 1976 Final Environmental Impact Statement, Mississippi River and Tributaries Project, Mississippi River Mainline Levees in the Federal Register.

Through evaluation of information and data obtained from levee inspections, seepage analyses, research, studies and engineering assessments, the USACE Memphis, Vicksburg and New Orleans districts collectively identified 143 additional work items along various reaches of the Mississippi River mainline levees  feature of the MR&T project. These work items are remedial measures to control seepage and/or raise and stabilize deficient sections of the existing levees and floodwalls to maintain the structural integrity and stability of the MRL system.

The 143 work items constitute the proposed action for this Final SEIS II and are located across portions of seven states: Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. This document is intended to supplement and, as necessary, augment the 1976 FEIS and 1998 Supplemental EIS to achieve USACE’s primary goals for the MR&T:

  • providing flood risk reduction from the Project Design Flood; and
  • being an environmentally sustainable project.

The Final SEIS II is available online at the USACE Vicksburg District website. The 30-day review period begins Friday, Nov. 13, and ends Monday, Dec. 14.

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Crime

VPD reports a string of burglaries from Tuesday through Thursday

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The Vicksburg Police Department reports that several burglaries occurred this week from Tuesday through Thursday.

On Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 5:58 a.m. officers responded to 1601 North Frontage Road in reference to a residential burglary. The victim advised he discovered the lock on his trailer was broken and multiple power tools valued at $5,000 were missing.

Tuesday at 11 p.m., officers responded to Parts Supply, 2406 South Frontage Road, in reference to an auto burglary. The victim stated he saw a white male wearing a camo jacket run from the cab of his truck carrying his lunch box while the driver was making a delivery to the store.

On Wednesday, Nov. 11, a victim came to the police department at 11:59 a.m. to report an auto burglary. The theft occurred on either Bridge Street or Evans Alley, sometime between Nov. 2 and Nov. 3. A Taurus 9-mm handgun was taken from the unlocked vehicle.

On Thursday, Nov. 12, at 8:41 a.m. a victim came to the police department to report an auto burglary. A black, white and lime green Scott bicycle was stolen off the back of the victim’s 2017 Nissan Altima. The bicycle is valued at around $3,000.

Also on Thursday, officers responded to Tri-State Tires, 2209 Washington St., at 10:19 a.m. for a business burglary. The complainant stated one of the U-Haul transports valued at $9,000 was stolen Tuesday, Nov. 10.

If you have information on any of these incidents, please call the Vicksburg Police Department at 601-636-2511.

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Crime

Vicksburg man arrested for statutory rape

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Carlos Tremaine Griffin (photo courtesy VPD)

Investigators with the Vicksburg Police Department arrested a man Friday on a statutory rape charge.

Carlos Tremaine Griffin, 35, of Vicksburg, was arrested shortly after 10 a.m. and is charged with one count of statutory rape in connection with an incident that occurred in October.

Griffin appeared before Judge Penny Lawson in Vicksburg Municipal Court later Friday. Lawson set his bond at $100,000 and bound him over to the Warren County grand jury.

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