Gautier trees may be cut for new Ocean Springs High School

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - The branches of a large live oak reach out to the bright blue sky.  It's a picturesque scene that may end soon because several of the trees may have to come down.

A $37 million high school is coming out of ground.  When Ocean Springs' new high school opens in August of 2012, an already busy Highway 57 will be even busier. An additional 1,500 cars will use the road each day, getting to and from the school. Something will have to be sacrificed to control traffic.

Widening Highway 57 would be done on the Gautier side of the road, something that caught Mayor Tommy Fortenberry by surprise.

"I'm not pleased at all that the city of Gautier has been put in the predicament where they have to make the decision to take down these beautiful live oak trees," Fortenberry said. "This was something that was decided, they didn't come to the city of Gautier. I haven't had a conversation with anyone about the widening of this road."

The Gautier City Council heard from an engineer on the project earlier this week, but the councilman who represents this area of the city, Johnny Jones, put the brakes on the conversation.

"The last thing that I want to be a part of is to cut these trees down," Jones said. "This is why I asked them to table the motion the engineering company had asked for.  I want us to come out here and be able to see and walk and be able to pace the area to see what can be done to save these trees."

Here's the irony in the situation.  If the city of Gautier ends up taking the live oak trees down, or somebody else does, it means the city is breaking its own laws. And that doesn't sit well with Mayor Fortenberry.

"We're being asked to violate our own law, go against our own law and take down trees that we deem to be endangered trees," the mayor said.  "It's not right and if I have anything to do with it, as far as my say as mayor of Gautier, they will not be cut down."

No date has been set for city officials to tour the property.  However, the council could discuss the issue further at Tuesday night's meeting.

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