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State of the City Address

Mayor Phil Fisher, State of the City Address 2022

Big Black River Project:

The City has a huge issue that must be addressed. It is important to understand, Clinton is not in this situation because we failed to take required steps in the past. We are here due to the closing of all sources of discharge by MDEQ. This is not a criticism of anyone or agency, the creeks simply reached capacity.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has topped the capacity for Baker’s creek. This means future development and anticipated growth reaches capacity in 2030. If no steps are taken, the City’s growth stops in 2030 because we cannot discharge higher levels of flow. Compounding the problem, all streams surrounding Clinton are closed to additional sewer flow. The City must find a new route/location to discharge its sewer.  

Here is a review of the history. When I came into office in July 2013, the City had a deadline of 2025 to have a completed, working solution. However, the City could not do anything until we had a discharge point. The only discharge point option was the Big Black River, 19 miles away. Despite conversations with MDEQ over seven years, we did not get permission from the MDEQ until May of 2021 to route our discharge to the Big Black River. This created another problem - the process from start to finish is approximately 10 years due to various environmental impact studies, engineering, right of way (ROW) acquisition over 19 miles, and finally construction.

So, we needed to gain five years (from 2025 to 2030) due to the ten-year process. In order to gain the additional five years to complete this project and accommodate future commercial growth, we are spending $5,500,000 to increase the capabilities of the Lovette Facility. The money for this project comes from our water and sewer fund and is available without borrowing or a rate increase. With the Lovette Lagoon expansion, MDEQ agreed to extend our deadline from 2025 to 2030.

Now that we have the time and the necessary permissions, we need the money - $97,000,000. We could not request funding until we knew we had a discharge point. The Big Black River solution requires running nineteen miles of pipe totaling $45,000,000 with an additional $42,000,000 in ROW, and facility construction (totaling $97,000,000) to build a system that will serve until 2080.

To get this far included many steps, but there are many more steps to take. Working with former Congressman Greg Harper, Greg Gearhart and I have already visited both Congress and the State Legislature for financial assistance. The BoA is also involved in this process and this March, Alderman Chip Wilbanks, Alderman James Lott, and Alderwoman Karen Godfrey will join City Engineer Greg Gearhart, Congressman Greg Harper and I as we return to Washington and “poke the embers” for financial opportunities.  

 To get funding from the state and federal level, it will be necessary to form an ‘Authority’ with Bolton, Clinton, and Raymond to manage the facility. It is also the right thing to do in order to maximize the economic potential of western Hinds County. The ‘Authority’ will require Legislative approval and we must have the ‘Authority’ prepared for their vote by the end of the current session. The Clinton, Raymond, and Bolton Boards of Alderman will vote Feb 1st on a resolution that will go to the Legislature.

I mentioned the economic impact. We already have the rail, the trucking, and the Vicksburg port in place for western Hinds County. This project will provide the needed sewer. Because the piped water will be processed, industrial cooling water capabilities are also possible. When Hinds County completes the Parkway from I-20 to Raymond, it will open John Bell Williams airport with the air assets. Think of it, 38 miles (19 miles on the north side of I-20 and 19 miles on the south side of I-20) of economic potential between the Big Black River and Clinton.

The final step will be the engineering/construction. Engineering efforts are already underway. This step was taken a few years ago so that we would have a cost figure. However, we must complete the engineering process to include selection of the exact route. Then we can request bids and begin the two-year process to build the project.

This Board could have easily passed this along to a future Board. After all, 2030 is eight years away and this is very complicated. Most governments would have “passed the buck” to avoid any political blow back. I hope you realize that this is a courageous step by this BoA because there are uncertainties that are out there. But this Boards 2021/2022 actions will give 2030 - 2080 Clinton the bright future in deserves.

Drainage Study and Traffic Study:

Congressman Harper is also working with Congress to assist the City with funding a comprehensive drainage study.

In a nut shell, here is the problem. The City drainage water generally flows north to south. Eventually, most of the water flows through the ditching system in Bruenburg. Unfortunately, the pipe that carries the water under the Natchez Trace was under sized. This causes the water to back up and stall the flow.

We must look at drainage holistically, to assure what we do in one area does not adversely affect another area. Think of the carnival “wack a mole” game. When the player hits one mole on the head, another mole head pops up. We do not want to fix one area and flood another area. We need to repair the drainage problem at the same time, City-wide.

I cannot answer the obvious question - when do we get the money, how long will the study take, and when will the work start. I do not know. The longest step will be getting the money from Congress. We do not control that. However, once the money is awarded for the study, the ball is in the City’s hand and we will move fast.

On the subject of studies, the City will also conduct a traffic study to determine the correct street sizing requirements for Arrow Drive, Cynthia, Pinehaven, and Northside Dr. this spring This study is required as we begin to seek funding for expansion of these streets to accommodate current and future needs.

84 Acres:

In 2015 I spoke with the Hederman family about eighty-four acres south of I-20 that lies between the interstate and Butts Park. The arrangements for selling this land to the City was completed in December 2021.

As I have stated many times over the years, Clinton needs to separate itself from Hinds County and Jackson if it is to grow and prosper. We must be different. Owning this property allows Clinton to develop a regional recreational park, designed to attract tourist from New Orleans/St. Louis and Dallas/Atlanta, as well as increase the recreational opportunities for Clintonians. In other words, a “state of the art” low maintenance park built incorporating the needs of today with future trends.

Confession time, in 1990s the coming recreational trend was walking/biking trails and money was hanging from the trees for construction. Ridgeland took full advantage of it and they have a wonderful draw to their City. I was on the BoA at that time and I had no clue that trails would be that big. Now we are trying to catch up. This proves that well intentioned volunteers only know what they have seen - lesson learned.

With that in mind, I talked with the BoA about bringing in a regional/national park expert to help us understand the future trends and design a park that meets those trends. Someone that can use this as an opportunity to tie all our parks together, giving us the basis for future spending and growth. This portion of the process starts in early 2022.

There would be one requirement that will generate income, a RV park. During the ‘Clinton Next’ meetings, the value of capturing traffic from the Natchez Trace led to a discussion of locating a RV Park in town. A location that would allow travelers to base themselves in Clinton while visiting other sites in the metro area and generate additional income for our community businesses.

Without a doubt, the future will bring many other valuable opportunities for increased/different recreational activities. This Park must be constructed with flexibility in mind and a goal to draw visitors from other communities inside and outside Mississippi. This is another way to make Clinton the “go to’ place in the Metro/State.

Crime:

As you look at these crime reductions since July of 2013, remember that Clinton is located on the west side of Jackson, the 2021 number one ranked city for murders in America.

The reduction in crime is possible because this City recognized the problems in Jackson and society as a whole and began steps to grow the police force beginning in July of 2013. During that period, we have added 30 new officers and have a goal to get to 70 by the end of this term. We are not defunding anything.

The growth in police strength made specialized policing possible. We have separate patrolling, traffic, detective and drug apprehension divisions operating to provide you better protection. The narcotic unit, begun in Oct 2021 is already showing results with the “acquisition” of two vehicles from drug dealers capturing marijuana, heroin, and money – and they are not fully equipped yet.

Since 2013, a police precinct now exists on Highway 80, the citizens purchased 60 rifles for police use, built a firing range, made use of passive policing measures, and this BoA significantly increased pay for officers.

The future will bring drones into our arsenal. Some will worry that these drones will be used to spy on law abiding citizens. Let me assure you, operating at a height of 300 feet, a drone cannot see what you are doing. What it can do is note the traffic behavior in neighborhoods. A criminal does not drive the speed limit and park in front of a house to rob it. They creep slowly through neighborhoods looking for an easy target. That activity can be pick up and investigated. It will also assist in searching for lost children. A drone can take the place of an officer when forceful entry is required. By the way, entering a house in an intense situation dealing with guns has already proven successful as the drone was able to identify the exact location of the subject without endangering an officer’s life.

Economic Development:

The City hired a new Economic Development Director, Daniel Lang, and he is making the rounds. His vision is to create a sustainable environment for businesses to thrive in over the long term. This is done by focusing on retail recruitment, industrial recruitment, and creating a pipeline of workforce in our city through the high school or Mississippi College. All three of these factors go hand in hand to create an ecosystem of success not just for the next couple of years but for decades to come.

But I want to talk to you about next steps in Economic Development. When I initially presented the Economic Development concept to the City, I said my goal was to move it away from the Mayor and Board of Alderman to avoid any political overtones and put the position in the hands of the business community.

My goal remains to establish some type of independent Economic Development organization operating separately from short term political influence. This method has proven successful in Tupelo, Vicksburg, Starkville, Oxford, and Hattiesburg - and they are lightyears ahead of Clinton. Daniel is studying the pros and cons of each organization in these cities to determine how an independent Economic Development Department would best work in Clinton.

When his study is complete, he will announce his findings to the Board of Alderman for additional study, then the City. If you are interested in being part of that process, please contact City Hall.

Legislature:

The City made a number of Legislative request. I would like to cover two of those requests pertaining to our quality of life;

1.      We requested the Legislature give the City the authority to hold a vote of the citizens to determine if a 2% sales tax can be added to the restaurant bill. If granted, a citizen vote would take place requiring a 60% majority vote for approval. Clinton is one of the few cities without a 2% tax. The money generated will be used to improve the quality of life in our parks system. The simple truth of the matter is this, Clinton will never have money in the amounts needed to upgrade or build new parks. Money at the state and federal level is limited, very competitive, and requires higher matching funds than our City can budget. Supporting this additional tax will give the City a funding source for the new parks and future improvements to the park system you tell us you want.

2.      I requested $1,000,000 to construct a walking trail from Brighten Park running south down Clinton Raymond Road. Recall my earlier discussions about a walking trail system through town. The trail from the schools on Arrow Drive to Northside Dr. will be completed soon. The trail system will continue to Brighten Park by sharing the street system. If we receive the $1,000,000, the Brighten Park/Clinton Raymond Road section will complete the spine of the biking/walking trail. Then we can start working on the “ribs” of the system - the trails that will connect to the spine trail.

ROBBERY CRIME REPORT

FELONY CRIME REPORT