Jackson City Council member Virgi Lindsay took office in 2017 with her eyes wide open about problems the city of Jackson faced.
These days, she has begun to feel optimistic for several reasons.
One reason is progress has been made that should lead to resolving the city’s water-sewer billing problems.
Another reason is the City Council’s vote to increase the pay for Jackson Police Department recruits and their starting salary, which took effect this month.
Lindsay, who represents Ward 7, which includes Belhaven, Belhaven Heights, Fondren and Woodland Hills, is also pleased that neighborhoods can create special taxing districts similar to business improvement districts thanks to legislation passed in 2019 and that the Greater Belhaven Neighborhood Foundation is working to do so.
She admits that problems with the city’s water-sewer billing system that stem from the installation of defective water meters have kept her awake at night, but she is hopeful because of steps the mayor and administration have taken.
“We’ve had some really good support from the One Percent Sales Tax Commission,” Lindsay said. “We’ve been able to get loans from the state. The Siemens settlement has put us in a different place.”
In February, the city reached a $89.8-million settlement with Siemens and subcontractors related to their faulty work on water-sewer infrastructure and billing system.
In September, the City Council voted to hire the Preo Group of Dallas as consultants to provide program management and project-specific vendor management for a program designed to rectify the city’s issues with the utility billing system.
Many citizens don’t realize that most cities fund services such as repairs to sewer and water lines and the paving of streets with funds generated by the water-sewer billing account, she said.
Lindsay expects the City Council’s decision to raise the pay for JPD recruits and their starting salary from $26,000 to $30,000, to improve morale in the department and make it easier to hire new officers.
“We were at a disadvantage because all of the surrounding communities were paying not much more than us but enough so that was difficult for us to retain police officers,” she said. “Now we’re at least competitive.”
A resident of Belhaven for more than 30 years and former executive director of the Greater Belhaven Foundation, Lindsay said the foundation is close to having all the required signatures needed for an election to consider establishing a community improvement district.
“It would be the first in the city to do that,” she said, explaining that a district would provide funds for additional security, beautification and other needs
Reflecting on her term as president of the City Council from July 2, 2019 until July 7, 2020, Lindsay said she never expected to face anything like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was in Washington, D.C. at the National League of Cities convention March 6-12 and all everybody was talking about was COVID,” she said. “During that time, the mayor and I began to talk about the difficult decision of shutting down the city. It became apparent that we had no choice.”
Lindsay said she plans to run for a second term because there is still work to do.
“I feel like I’m not done yet,” she said. “I feel like we’re close to getting some of the problems resolved or at least headed in the right direction.”
Jackson is a city worth fighting for, Lindsay said. “I’ve spent a lot of my life working to make things better in Jackson,” she said. “I want to continue to make things better.”
Knowing that young people are buying houses in the city and choosing to live and play in Jackson and that developers are making investments in downtown keeps her outlook positive for the city, she said.
She’s also encouraged also by input from citizens who take time to call the 311 Action Line for all non-emergency city service requests.
“Ward 7 has the largest number of 311 reports,” she said. “I’m proud of that. It says a lot about who we are.”