By Jef Rietsma
After a few months of negotiation, the Vicksburg Village Council June 1 approved a three-year agreement with the Vicksburg Historical Society.
Village manager Jim Mallery explained the details. “The historical society is responsible for approximately $1,000 per month for the utility expenses associated with the property. Those utility expenses will be reviewed prior to June 1 each year to assure they’re in alignment with what the lease agreement states,” he said. “Also, if this agreement would not continue after three years, the Historical Society would have 180-day advance notice of that.”
Mallery said he does not expect the village will have to exercise that clause, but it was added at the request of the Society. He said the two sides worked together in what he called a “win-win situation for each group.”
“We took what was at one time going to be a one-year agreement and moved it into a mutually beneficial, three-year agreement,” he said.
Next, Mallery addressed the issue of police brutality in light of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He vowed that such a situation will never happen in Vicksburg.
“I just wanted this council and the citizens we serve to know how deeply troubled I was as a person who has been involved in policing – troubled, disturbed, disgusted – the actions of those officers shocked my conscience,” Mallery said, adding that his personal philosophy related to policing is based on procedural justice, police legitimacy and providing while serving.
“Our fundamental, foundational obligation to citizens, as it relates to our officers interaction with them, is we treat everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of their lot in life, regardless of their background, regardless of where they live in this village or live in this world, and specifically, regardless of the color of their skin.
“We treat human beings with dignity and respect, and those expectations will never waver in any organization I’m responsible for to deliver police services.”
In other action, Mallery requested that board president Bill Adams, and trustees Carl Keller and Rick Holmes remain as Vicksburg’s representatives to the South County Sewer Authority.
At a June 15 meeting, council members heard from council member Gail Reisterer regarding Mallery’s annual evaluation. She said Mallery has “again performed extremely well for us.”
“Out of a possible 480 points he achieved 424.5 of those points and an overall score of 4.4 out of a possible 5,” she said. “So, a nice, strong evaluation.”
Council members then heard from village treasurer Michelle Morgan regarding an ordinance related to delinquent taxes. Morgan said the ordinance puts unpaid funds on the village’s 2020 tax rolls unless the delinquent amounts are paid by the end of the calendar year. The deadline has always been the end of June, but Mallery said a concession was made this year only.
In all, there are 23 debts to the village, a higher number than usual, Morgan said. A burned house the village had to demolish contributed to the higher-than-normal number, she noted.
In advance of the village’s anticipated approval of its 2020-21 fiscal year budget June 29, Mallery provided more information. He started with good news, as Mallery said the village’s $45,000 state-shared revenue payment for June was at least 50 percent more than anticipated.
Mallery said the proposed budget reflects a 10 percent reduction in tax revenue and a 35 percent reduction in state funding from the prior year.
He said the village will analyze its budget every two months beginning in September. “I anticipate our amendments, especially on the revenue side through the 2020-21 fiscal year, will tick upward because of the conservative nature we’re structuring this budget.
“But, to present the budget under those constraints, you’ll see each of the departments are cut besides the elimination of part-time, which is seasonal staff, so we’re losing 80 hours a week at DPW,” Mallery continued, noting the department’s proposed budget is $328,225. “I don’t anticipate any service reduction to our citizens, though, under this budget. I believe we’ll be able to keep the same level of service.”
Its budget represents a 14.5 percent reduction from a year ago and reflects a staff of four full-time employees. He anticipated more discussion at a June 29 meeting to focus on the village’s capital investments, including a projected $225,000 pole barn for the DPW.
Mallery said the village for 2020-21 is budgeting allocations for a significant infrastructure project, eight parks, street maintenance and a comprehensive preventive-maintenance program.
Regarding police, Mallery said its recommended budget is $591,805, a 7.6-percent reduction from the 2019-20 fiscal year. It reflects contractual salaries and funding for a chief, five full-time officers, a school-resource officer and 24/7 police service.
“Our daily neighborhood canvassing will continue, all businesses within the village will be checked nightly, we have customer service follow-ups, we do year-round vacation checks, and starting here in July there will be organized weekly interactions with youth of Vicksburg throughout the summer months,” Mallery said. “And, I’m happy to report the Vicksburg Foundation did approve our grant request for body cameras.”
He expects officers to be equipped with the body cameras by the end of the calendar year.
Mallery said the village’s downtown development authority expects to dress up downtown with new U.S. flags, dog stations and seasonal flowers. In addition, the village plans to continue working with the Vicksburg Foundation and put $18,000 toward the downtown façade loan program. The foundation is awarding $12,000.