Moran highlights projects in State of the City address - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Moran highlights projects in State of the City address

By Sylvia Hall – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Ocean Springs could be seeing the beginning of economic recovery, according to Mayor Connie Moran. That was just some of the good news she delivered Friday night in her State of the City Address.

"We're being a little cautious, but we do feel like we're seeing the upturn in the economy, at least in our city," Moran said. 

Moran said sales tax revenue for 2010 has already reached $1.05 million, up five percent from this time last year.  Sales tax revenue, vitally important for any city, was $4.62 million last year, down from $4.7 million in 2008. 

That revenue and various grants help fund a number of projects in this city, some of which are already underway.  Moran pointed out a walkway along Front Beach and a new public safety facility as projects that have already begun and will progress in 2010. 

She also updated the city's $4.7 million street beautification project.  It includes a new parking lot for Ocean Springs Depot and brick crosswalks, which have been installed at several major intersections in downtown Ocean Springs.  The project's second phase will afford a new parking lot downtown, and a treescape project along Government Street.  Moran said she envisions live oaks towering over the thoroughfare at the project's completion.

"I know there's been a lot of construction downtown and that gets very irksome," said Moran.  "But we're going to put these trees in in the spring."

Moran said city residents could also see more efficiency in the courts department this year.

"We have hired warrants officers and worked to clear old cases on the docket, install new court records software system. So our courts department is much more efficient," said Moran.

The city has also gone electronic with its water billing system, as information from meter readers can now be accessed from City Hall.

"They have just completed installation of an electronic meter system that's LAN-based," said Moran.  "That means [City Clerk] Shelly Ferguson's staff at City Hall, with a few keystrokes, can read meters citywide.  We're the only one in the state like that."

Moran said the city is also committed to improving drainage, a priority set by the Board of Aldermen shortly before Hurricane Katrina.  She hopes to get some funding for that work soon.

"The board has prioritized drainage needs and we have begun engineering on some of these projects, and some of them are extremely expensive," said Moran.

Moran also mentioned a project that carried a surprisingly small price tag.  The Mary C. O'Keefe's new IP/Viking Culinary Arts Cafe was open to the public Friday night.  Moran said the cafe's price was greatly reduced with help from some generous donations and grants.

"It's tremendous to have about a $200,000 facility for maybe the city put in $20,000," Moran said.  "The rest was all grants."

The Mayor told the audience the picture in Ocean Springs isn't perfect.  Like all coast cities, residents in Ocean Springs are dealing with skyrocketing insurance rates.  The mayor said something has to be done, sooner rather than later.

 "If we don't do something to partner with the state and support Gene Taylor and all federal efforts to somehow mitigate the high cost of insurance, we're all going to be in a lot of trouble," Moran said.  "It is the number one issue hampering economic recovery on the Gulf Coast.  So as much as we can do as a small town, I pledge to you, that is on our radar screen."

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