Work begins on Vicksburg village office

Village Council members Ryan Wagner, Wendy Prosser-Pheils, Carl Keller, Council President Tim Frisbie, and Council members Gail Reisterer, and Denny Olsen. Photo by Randy Hartman.

By Jef Rietsma

Years of meticulous budgeting and vigilant planning bore fruit last month as Village President Tim Frisbie and council members participated in a ceremonial groundbreaking for Vicksburg’s new municipal building.

Located north of the village water tower on North Richardson Street, the $2.5 million complex is expected to be open by February 2024.

A parade of local dignitaries attended the April 24 groundbreaking and acknowledged the village’s tenacious budgeting. The project is being financed with cash on hand.

Frisbie said the need for a new village office would be tough to overstate.

“We outgrew our current village hall quite some time ago but we managed to make it work all this time while we addressed other critical needs in this community,” he said.

Frisbie said the new municipal hall will be ADA-compliant. It will feature enough space to accommodate all facets of the village’s police department, large enough for staff to conduct day-to-day operations and – most importantly, he said – provide proper room to host village council and other village-related meetings.

“That will eliminate the need to rent off-site facilities,” Frisbie added. “This building will not only serve our community of today, but the citizens of tomorrow long into the future. Today is, indeed, a great day.”

The lineup of speakers included Village Manager Jim Mallery, a number of Kalamazoo County officials, State Sen. Sean McCann, and representatives on behalf of U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg and State Rep. Matt Hall.

Mike Frederick, owner of Vicksburg-based Frederick Construction, said his company is pleased to play such a large role in assembling a building that will be a part of Vicksburg for a number of generations.

“My wife and I would certainly like to thank Jim (Mallery), village staff and council members for allowing us to participate and be part of this great new building,” he said, before acknowledging key employees who were on hand. “Without them, we wouldn’t be standing here today. It takes a good team to be successful and we look forward to getting this building underway, and bringing it in under budget and on time.”

Mallery said planning for the new facility started in 2016. By January 2018, council members began setting aside funds dedicated exclusively toward covering the cost of a new municipal building.

In January 2022, village officials debated whether to purchase new property and build, look for an existing building to renovate, or consider building new on village-owned property. Ultimately, council members a chose to build on the west side of Richardson Street the water tower.

Passage of a resolution in March made the project official, leading up to last month’s ceremonial ground breaking.

A licensed demolition crew will eventually raze the existing village hall but not until after the new facility is constructed and open for business.

Mallery said village taxpayers will save between $1.5 million and $2 million over the course of a typical 30-year bond because the project is being paid with cash.

Vicksburg to consider banners to honor veterans

Vicksburg might have banners honoring local veterans soon, like this one in Indiana.

By Jef Rietsma

Vicksburg Village Council members are considering a plan to honor local military veterans with banners on street light posts bearing their name and image.

The matter was raised April 17 by commissioner Rick Holmes, who said he was inspired by a tribute he saw while on a business trip in a small southern Indiana community.

Holmes said the city of Batesville had hung banners of area residents who served in the U.S. military. Holmes said he was so impressed with the novelty of such a concept and the level of pride it created that he eagerly sought more information from locals.

“They’re about the same size of the banners on our light posts at the intersection of Prairie and Main that announce our 150th anniversary,” Holmes said. “They were military men and women who had served in armed conflict. I had never seen anything like that before.”

A stop at the Batesville VFW provided Holmes with enough information to discuss with officials from the local VFW when he returned home. Holmes said it appears the local branch is on board with the concept.

Holmes said he quickly noticed the 3-foot-by-2-foot banners are a strong source of pride.

He said the length of time such banners would be on display would be determined by municipal officials.

“The bottom line is, it’s a way of showing … that we want to honor those who did serve with distinction and served the community in an armed conflict,” Holmes said.

Village Manager Jim Mallery said there is an ample number of poles throughout town, affording an opportunity to display banners in various ways: two different veterans in side-by-side banners, two different veterans featured on each side of a single banner, or simply one veteran on both sides of one banner.

Holmes said he spoke to officials in Portage, where a similar method of acknowledgment is in place. He said there would be a cost to create a flag, which he expects a family wishing to honor its serviceman or woman would have no problem paying. Mallery estimated such a cost would not exceed $125. Mallery said he found out Batesville uses grant money he suspects the city secures through riverboat gambling revenue funding.

“Most people are very flattered to have the opportunity,” Holmes said. “If anything, there’s a waiting list in order to get their loved one up on a banner.”

Village President Tim Frisbie said he is open to buying banners out of his own pocket for families of veterans who may not be in a financial position to make such a purchase.

Mallery said he would like to conduct further research into the matter and discuss his findings at the council’s July meeting.

Following such a schedule, he noted, would put the banners on a course to be up and on display in 2024.

Vicksburg’s DPW building complete, debt-free

Jim Mallery stands by the new building.

By Jef Rietsma

Vicksburg municipal officials praised the recent completion of a major capital-improvement project: a new public works garage.

Finishing touches were added late last year to the 6,000-square-foot building. Located off North Main Street, the new building ensures all DPW vehicles and equipment used by the department’s five-member staff are under a roof.

Village Manager Jim Mallery said equally as important, it’s worth noting the facility was built with money the district had set aside over the course of four years. He said not a lot of communities can authorize construction of a $430,000 building without incurring some debt.

“We took our time and saved money so we could do this in cash,” he said. “Built it on land we already own, so this is really a good example of being fiscally responsible and not putting a burden on taxpayers.”

Mallery said an old salt-storage area fell victim to the new building. He said it had served its purpose but its condition was beyond woeful.

“Just having a dry storage area for the salt, not having to use a bunch of tarps to keep it covered because of the holes in the roof, it’s really a 100 percent improvement,” Mallery said, noting the storage area also includes the salt supply used by Vicksburg Public Schools.

Meanwhile, the garage itself houses all snow-removal equipment, the village’s three plow trucks, a vac-all truck, a wood chipper and pick-ups necessary for everyday use. In all, there is room for more than a dozen vehicles inside the facility.

“The goal was to clean up the yard, organize it, get all of our equipment inside … that’s about $1 million worth of equipment and keeping it contained inside this building will certainly help extend its life,” Mallery said. “There’s room, we believe, for the next 50 years’ worth of growth.”

The former garage, a 4,000-square-foot building, will continue to be used in various capacities. It stands to the east of the new maintenance building and will eventually be fitted with a façade to better resemble the exterior of the new building, Mallery said.

Motion-detected flood lights and cameras provide security. A generous amount of shelving helps keep things organized, Mallery said.

Construction of the new building was a slow process but took place in about 12 months.