Jackson City Council member Virgi Lindsay is most proud of her responsiveness to constituents in Ward 7, which includes Belhaven, Fondren, Woodland Hills and the District at Eastover.
“When people call my office, they are upset,” she said. “They’ve already tried to resolve their issues themselves and they’re frustrated. I’m so fortunate to have Alice Patterson in my office because she handles those phone calls with grace.
“We try to resolve whatever issue they have. Sometimes it takes a minute, and we’re not always successful, but we certainly try.”
A resident of Belhaven for more than 30 years and former executive director of the Greater Belhaven Foundation, Lindsay drives throughout her ward almost every week and takes photos of potholes and anything else her constituents bring to her attention.
She’s on the phone at 7:30 most mornings and often will be on the phone at 7:30 or 8 many evenings, handling city business. She receives about $300 a week in pay.
Now in her second term as a council member and her second term as council president, Lindsay served as council president from July 2, 2019 until July 7, 2020, during which time the city confronted the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic.
Even with difficult issues such as infrastructure problems that the city can’t resolve overnight, Lindsay appreciates the opportunity to use the body of knowledge she brought to the job. “I’m glad I’m doing this even with all of the headaches,” she said.
This term in office is historic, she said, because of the American Rescue Plan and the $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan. The city is set to receive a total of $42 million from the American Rescue Plan and funds are yet to be determined from the infrastructure plan. “With all of that comes a huge amount of responsibility,” she said.
The city’s slow progress in improving the water treatment system remains a frustration, Lindsay said. Last winter, many residents were left without drinking water because of equipment malfunction at the water treatment plants due to unseasonably cold weather.
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 administration, but the city of Jackson has been unable to do that since 2014 due to faulty infrastructure and the billing system, she said.
Last year, the city reached an $89.8-million settlement with Siemens and subcontractors related to their faulty work on the infrastructure and billing system and has begun improvements.
Utility Metering Solutions expects to spend about 15 months installing new residential meters that will replace defective ones throughout the city, and it is installing an advanced metering infrastructure system that will receive data from the water meters and transmit it to the billing software.
A new water billing customer portal, which can be accessed via a cell phone or tablet, allows a customer to check on water usage, view his or her current bill and billing history, his or her water bill with a credit card, set up automatic payments and contact the water department via email.
The city received $3 million from state bond funds to help pay for improvements at the J.H. Fewell Water Treatment Plan and has spent about $10 million on water/sewer projects.
Crime across the city continues to alarm Lindsay, who voted against confirming Jackson Police Department Chief James E. Davis to a second four-year term because she believed a change in leadership was needed.
The city council asked Davis for a detailed plan to combat crime but has not received one.
Trash collection became an issue earlier this year, and Lindsay said she had constituents alarmed that a contract might not be in place to replace the one that was expiring.
A day before Waste Management’s contract was set to end, the mayor, the city council and Waste Management agreed on a one-month contract at $10.56 per residence and an additional five months at $15 per month per residence.
The 1 Percent Sales Tax Commission has been helpful in providing funding to repair and repave Jackson streets such as Old Canton Road and North State Street, she said. Riverside Drive is set to be reworked.
Investments such as the Belhaven Town Center development and the District at Eastover are positives for the city, Lindsay said. So are young people who want to live in Fondren, Belhaven, downtown and other parts of the city.
“The restaurants, the museums and other places to gather are a big draw to young adults,” she said. “What I tell young people who are moving into the city is that they can have a voice here. They can move into our city and become leaders and have a real stake in the future of our capital city.”