Gulfport public hearing explains $5 million plans for Jones Park - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport public hearing explains $5 million plans for Jones Park

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

By Elizabeth Vowell – email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The city of Gulfport held a public meeting to explain a new five million dollar proposal for Jones Park, but the mayor and city council may have heard more than they were expecting from concerned citizens.       

The city's plan was to use community development block grant funds to pay for new enhancements for the Jones Park Small Craft Harbor.

Mayor George Schloegel said the project was essential in bringing back the Gulfport seafood industry that has been absent since Katrina. 

However, the residents who spoke out against that funding plan worried the city had lost sight of community needs, and that the $5 million could be better used elsewhere.

"Our infrastructure is dilapidated; it's old. We need to put money in the infrastructure," said one concerned citizen. Where we have raw sewage popping out, that's where the money needs to be used."

"I'm not fighting the revitalization of Jones Park, but I am promoting the fact that we need to do something about our neighborhood where people live," said Gulfport resident Jerry Pryor. 

However, city and state leaders both emphasized the community development block grant being discussed, at the meeting could only be used for downtown development. 

"Even though its $5 million and it's coming through MDA, it's still not five million you could take and put into housing. This money is allocated for a certain thing, so it has to go where it's designed to," explained Rep. Frances Fredericks (D-Gulfport). 

Part of the project improvements are plans to build an area where boaters can sell their shrimp and fish right off the dock, and where farmers can come sell their produce. The city also plans to include the addition of commercial boat slips and a walking path.

Nearly two hours were spent by city officials explaining and assuring residents that the funding would not take away from infrastructure needs. 

"It's not an issue of doing one or the other. It's things we should be focusing on all at one time," said Gulfport Main Street Director Lisa Bradley. "There's no reason that we should not have that in our community, not at the expense of something else, because that's not the case here."

In the end, the Jones Park project will have to be approved by the Mississippi Development Authority before any work can begin. 

As for the community concerns that were brought up, the Gulfport council will hold a second meeting. In that meeting, citizens can address specific neighborhood concerns, and the city will help find appropriate funding to fix them. 

"It's nothing that we can't come together to fix. I think this was a good opportunity for everyone to say what they felt and get it off their chest, but really at the end come together and have a solution instead of just walk away angry," said Bradley. 

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