Gautier mayor delivers first state of the city address - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gautier mayor delivers first state of the city address

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) -

By Sylvia Hall – bio | email

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) – Despite tough economic times, Gautier Mayor Tommy Fortenberry is excited about the city's future.  Tuesday night, Fortenberry gave his first state of the city address since he was elected as a political newcomer last summer.  The majority of Gautier's city councilmen were also new to the political scene.

"We've accomplished, I believe, a lot in 10 months," said Fortenberry.  "We have a long ways left to go.  And we're willing to stay in the trenches and keep doing what's right for Gautier."

Shortly after the speech began, he delivered the city's bad news: Gautier expects a $400,000 drop in sales tax revenue this year.  Fortenberry said other revenue sources make up for the downfall, and the city will weather the storm and keep its employees.

"It's in my heart and the heart of the administration and the councilmen that we work toward raises, not layoffs," said Fortenberry.

Fortenberry said he and his team are working hard to get sales tax revenue up by making the city better for business. He mentioned a Hwy 90 streetscape project, a litter campaign, relaxed sign ordinances and some rezoning as part of the effort.  Some of those ideas stemmed from a town hall meeting late last year that addressed the concerns of local business owners.  A second town hall was held Tuesday immediately after the meeting.

"We're in the process of rezoning Gautier-Vancleave Road to a commercial area," said Fortenberry.  "We want to attract more business to Gautier.  Hire a quality economic developer and city planner.  That's very high on our priority list."

He said he also believes Gautier's streetscape project will help pave the way for new business by improving the aesthetic and quality of life along Hwy 90.

"It's going to put a 10 foot sidewalk on each side of Hwy 90," explained Fortenberry.  "It's going to be jogger friendly, bicycle friendly, walker friendly, it's going to have some rest stations there.  It's going to have new landscaping, it's going to have lights installed that's traffic friendly and pedestrian friendly, and  its going to start giving us a footprint of a downtown in Gautier."

Fortenberry also emphasized the importance of buying locally.

He said progress is visible all across Gautier, in the form of road construction taking place on most of the city's thoroughfares, as part of several MDOT projects.

"I'm sure on your way here tonight you passed by some cones somewhere," said Fortenberry.  "I'd like to get in the orange cone selling business because they're all over the City of Gautier.  But that's part of progress."

He said more could be on the way, as he hopes to pave city streets in the future.  He also hopes to expand Martin Bluff Road to a 4-lane road soon.

"We have $5 million in grant money that's laying on the table," said Fortenberry.  "We need to come up with about $1 million to get this work done, so we would get $6 million worth of work done on Martin Bluff Road for about $1 million."

Fortenberry also highlighted some of the assets unique to Gautier.  He mentioned Shell Landing and Mississippi National golf courses, the old Gautier home, Gautier's historic cemetery, Indian Point campground and the G.I. Museum as some of the city's amenities he holds dear. 

He also mentioned Gautier's Blue Ribbon schools, as well as several kid-friendly projects the city has seen over the past year.  They include a new Boys and Girls Club facility at Bacot Park, funded through partnerships with corporations and local nonprofits, according to Fortenberry.  He also mentioned the newly built play equipment at Frazier Park, a project Fortenberry said he cares about deeply.  

As the lights came up, Fortenberry ended his speech with a promise to Gautier's citizens that city government was on their side.

"Myself and this council will continue to agree to disagree, and to keep going back and forth until we do what we believe in our heart is right for the City of Gautier," said Fortenberry.  "And I hope you see that we are working in unity.  We are working hard to accomplish things.  And it's amazing what will get accomplished if nobody cares who gets the credit."

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