Ocean Springs Aldermen Push For Referendum On Bond Issue

Ocean Springs Police Chief Kerry Belk pointed to some file cabinets and said" Because of the lack of adequate storage space, we have supplies and everything else in file cabinets and it really takes away from the office space".

Chief Belk says his officers and staff have been working in cramped quarters for too long. Chief Belk said "We're just to the point now with the growth of the city and the growth of the police department itself, we're just completely out of room".

Chief Belk wants to move out of the 38-year old building, and build a new facility closer to the east side of town. Chief Belk said "It's phenomenal, the way the business and residential growth has grown toward the east on Highway 90".

But building a Public Safety Facility that would house the police department, fire department and city courts could cost several million dollars. That's money the city doesn't have right now. That's why some city leaders believe a bond issue may be the answer.

The bond would also pay for a new Sports Complex on Highway 57, infrastructure improvements, like streets and drainage, and the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center that's under restoration. A bond would mean higher property taxes.

Ward 2 Alderman Matt McDonnell said "I believe the figure that was utilized back on a previous discussion was a $7 million price tag. That could affect an average property owner of about $60 a year".

That's why McDonnell wants voters to decide if they support a bond in a referendum. McDonnell said "I think the public deserves the right not only to have public input, but also to be able to vote on those issues. We're spending their dollars and it's going to be a long term debt that we're going to have to pay back with their dollars".

City leaders are trying to come up the exact amount the city can afford to borrow, and an estimate of how much the projects will cost. They should have some preliminary figures at Tuesday's board meeting. Before the bond issue goes up for a public vote, the city will hold three public hearings. The first one is scheduled for July 21st.

By: Trang Pham-Bui