Port Commission Finances Questioned By Biloxian

Robert Barq sat at his picnic table on the north side of the back bay and critiqued the Biloxi Port Commission.

"I don't want to step on anybody's toes," the Biloxi real estate investor said. "A lot of those people are friends of mine. But the bottom line is they need to regroup."

Barq doesn't own a boat. He doesn't run charter fishing trips out of the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor. But he does pay taxes. And as a taxpayer, Barq said he was disappointed with what he called the fiscal irresponsibility of port commissioners.

"If you're running your own business and you're losing money everyday, what do you do," he asked. "You regroup."

Frankie Duggan has been the port commission's director for almost a year. "Like I said, it was easy to be an arm chair quarterback when you don't have all the facts," said Duggan.

The facts, according to Duggan, are that the financial problems started when the port commission didn't receive $400,000 it expected from Harrison County supervisors. The problems got worse when insurance premiums nearly doubled.

"Financially, it isn't very solid at all. We're on shaky ground right now," admitted Duggan. However, he said, "We're trying to do some things to put it back in order and get it to run a little bit tighter."

One thing the port commission won't do is raise rent. Duggan said boat slip prices will remain the same. So will the $100 a month fee the port charges the Biloxi Bay Chamber to lease two offices in port's administration building.

"We're an economic arm of the city of Biloxi," said Duggan. "We try to promote the economy. And what better way than through the chamber of commerce."

An audit is being done right now, to see where the Biloxi Port Commission can cut costs, so it can get out of its financial predicament.