The Search For Money Still On In Gulfport

Hostility, frustration, and aggravation over high water bills in Orange Grove. The Gulfport City Council has heard it all this year from angry citizens.

"It's all part of the territory and we're here to serve the people and we've got to do the best that we can with the resources we have to do them with and people have had some justifiable complaints," says Ward 7 Council Member Billy Hewes.

The complaints center around the city's aging water and sewer system. The mayor says it needs a total overhaul but the city also needs $125 million to pay for it.

"We don't wanna raise water rates, we don't wanna raise taxes. We've got to find a source of money," says Mayor Ken Combs.

Hewes says there are funding sources. He says millions of dollars would come from casino development in Jones Park, but that's a proposal none of the other council members support. What they all do agree on is, though is raising the city's sale tax by one cent.

Hewes says, "Tryin' to get the legislature to pass, to give us a local option to present to the people which would bring us about $12.5 million a year, is the estimated amount that would bring us."

"That's what we're gonna have to push for," adds Combs. "We're in the best possible position on sales tax because of Crossroads Shopping Center and Gulfport Outlet Mall. About 60-percent of our sales tax would be paid by local people in my estimation and 40-percent by visitors."

Gulfport leaders can only hope a higher sales tax will get the okay from the next legislature. Otherwise, they'll continue hearing from citizens demanding action that the city may not be able to deliver.