City wants return of auditorium ownership from state

VICKSBURG — The city of Vicksburg wants its auditorium back.

The State of Mississippi currently owns the auditorium. The city deeded it to the state in 1985 to take advantage of $1.15 million in state bond money to upgrade the auditorium. The money had been earmarked in 1972 for the Sprague, which was destroyed by fire in 1974.

City attorney Nancy Thomas tells The Vicksburg Post that the agreement expired in 2010 but the state never returned the 58-year-old building to Vicksburg. Thomas said there were no provisions in the agreement automatically transferring ownership back to the city when it expired.

“We have never received any notice from the state that it was deeding the building back to us,” Thomas said.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr., who served in the Legislature from 1988 to 2013, said no one from the previous administration asked about getting the auditorium back.

“It must have been an oversight,” he said.

The city wants to improve the building’s entrance and add a ramp. It can do nothing without ownership of the auditorium.

Flaggs said if the auditorium’s ownership doesn’t return to the city, local officials will have to get approval to make renovations from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, because the building has state landmark status; and from the Department of Finance and Administration, which oversees state property.

“That’s why we want the (legislative) delegation to get the state to return the auditorium back to us,” Flaggs said. “We want to eliminate some of the bureaucracy (to do the project).”

The events putting the auditorium on the state’s property list go back to 1984, 10 years after the Sprague fire, when state officials decided to use the state money for the auditorium, which at the time was the site of the Miss Mississippi pageant. Because the $1.15 million was part of a $2.5 million pot of state bond money “for historic projects around Vicksburg,” it could only be used to improve state-owned property.

Under the agreement, the city operates and maintains the building.

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