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City hires Texas firm to study site, design animal shelter

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen has hired a company for $19,250 to study and design a 6,000-square-foot animal shelter for the city.

The board at a Friday meeting approved hiring Shelter Planners of Arlington, Texas, to handle the conversion of a section of a 1.9-acre tract of land at 4845 U.S. 61 South, north of Mid-South Lumber and Supply. The company specializes in animal shelter planning and design.

In a related matter, the board ratified and accepted a deed from Ernest Thomas Properties LP, which donated the property and accepted easements from Mid-South Lumber & Supply and BellSouth Communications LLC (AT&T).

City Attorney Nancy Thomas told the board the deed and easements have been filed, “So we now own that property.”

“It is now ready to go forward with determining whether or not we can go forward with retrofitting the building or having to build a new shelter on the location,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “It looks like we’re moving forward. Hopefully, prayerfully, we’ll build an animal shelter.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Shelter Planners will perform a needs assessment of the site for $7,500 and prepare a conceptual design for the shelter for $12,000. The company will also bill the city $2,500 for travel to the city to perform the needs assessment.

The needs assessment will examine whether the property is suitable for a shelter and whether the 14,000-square-foot building on the property can be used as a shelter or be razed and a new shelter built.

According to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality’s flood zone map, a portion of the building — the southwest corner — falls into a flood zone but Ernest Thomas said it has never taken water.

City officials have been considering a new animal shelter for several years. The present shelter is almost 50 years old and sits on a tract of land on Old Mill Road adjacent to the Vicksburg Fire Department’s training center.

The current shelter is in a flood zone and subject to be surrounded by flash flooding. It was threatened by the 2019 flood and animals had to be evacuated in the 2011 flood. City officials have considered several potential sites, including city property in a section of Cedar Hill Cemetery off Sky Farm Avenue.

Feb. 21, 2020, Flaggs, other city officials and city resident Marilyn Terry, who provided a recommendation for a shelter building, toured the former U.S. Rubber Reclaiming plant off U.S. 61 South, which is owned by the city and located in a flood zone, and the Oak Street site in the 2100 block of Oak Street south of Depot Street.

Problems with the Oak Street property forced city officials to remove the site from consideration. In August, the board considered a 14.3-acre tract at 4211 Rifle Range Road owned by Cappaert Holdings LLP but the city was unable to afford the $1.5 million to buy the land and build the shelter.

Ernest Thomas offered to donate the property and metal building on U.S. 61 South in September.

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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