Fire district approves Ocean Springs annexation - - The News for South Mississippi

Fire district approves Ocean Springs annexation


By Sylvia Hall – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - The City of Ocean Springs just cleared another hurdle in their proposed annexation. The board adopted an agreement Tuesday night between the city and the Gulf Park Estates/ St. Andrews Fire Protection District. 

When disaster strikes near the Ocean Springs Airport, it's the Gulf Park Estates Fire Department that responds first. But if Ocean Springs' annexation plans go through, someone new could run to the rescue.

"We would be first responders and, of course, they would be on an "as call" basis as secondary responders," said Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran. "In return, we would be secondary responders to them in the area they still serve after annexation."

The agreement between the City of Ocean Springs and the Gulf Park Estates/St. Andrews Fire Protection District will affect a small portion of the annexation area, including the area by the airport.

"They have agreed not to oppose the annexation of Ocean Springs," said Mayor Moran.  "And the City has agreed, in turn, to pay them three annual installments in the amount that they would have received from property taxes."

Moran said Ocean Springs also plans to extend a similar offer to the Jackson County Fire District, which currently serves the rest of the annexation area. Jackson County Fire District Manager Ray Watson hasn't seen a proposal, but said it could be a hard sell.

"At this point in time, with what we know right now, we will oppose the annexation," said Watson.  "We'll have to look at the fire protection for the area, how Ocean Springs is going to do it, versus what we know that we can do out there and provide ourselves."

Watson said providing quality fire protection for the affected area is the fire district's main concern.  He said he questions whether a city fire department can provide as much manpower as quickly as the volunteer departments who respond to emergencies in the area.

"Between the Fountainbleu department and the Gulf Park department, which respond together as one fire department, we can put two career guys on the ground immediately without them having to respond a long distance away," said Watson.  "Plus, we have numerous volunteers that if you have a house fire or a structure fire, you can have 10, 15 or 20 people, trained firefighters, that are on the scene at that time."

Moran said the City plans to build a new fire station on Hwy 57, between Hwy 90 and I-10 if the proposed annexation comes to fruition.  She also said the new fire station under construction as part of the public safety complex, as well as the existing fire station on Old Spanish Trail, would also help serve the City as it grows eastward.  She said taxpayers in the area would benefit from a fully staffed fire department nearby, as well as possible tax breaks.

"Our rating is a better rating. Instead of the [Jackson County's] eight, it's a class six," said Moran. "So that residents and businesses alike should receive some break on their insurance premiums."

Moran said she looks forward to negotiating as Ocean Springs moves forward with annexation plans.

"I'd prefer to sit and negotiate with all the entities and agencies that are going to be impacted by annexation. Understand their concerns up front, and see if we can work something out."

Moran said she expects the city to file for annexation in Chancery Court soon.

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