Gulfport: BP owes city $12 million - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport: BP owes city $12 million

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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

The city of Gulfport has submitted a nearly $12 million claim to BP for oil spill compensation.  But, based on some of the conversation held at a Tuesday night public hearing about the claim, a BP representative says part of the claim appears to be unfounded. "There is a guideline set forth by the oil pollution act," BP's Ray Melick told WLOX.com. "Some of the things they were talking about last night are outside those guidelines."

Gulfport councilman Ricky Dombrowski isn't sure that's the case. "Our formula is off previous cases they've had," the council president said, noting BP has never shown Gulfport how it calculates compensation claims.  "This is a final claim.  If you don't agree with us, give us a counteroffer.  They won't even give us a counteroffer."   

In an effort to make the claims against BP more transparent, the Gulfport City Council held an open panel discussion on Tuesday night.  City council members hoped those in attendance would leave with a better understanding of negotiations with the oil giant.

"Delay, delay, delay, delay. That is not something we're making up. That is something the media can go and look up and see how long these claims have been out there," councilman Rusty Walker said.

The city of Gulfport wants to move forward with the claims process, and according to Dombrowski, is willing to negotiate with the oil giant. Still city leader's say their frustrations can no longer be ignored.  For instance, councilmen are curious why they think they're owed as much as $12 million, yet BP has offered $$76,000 for lost sales tax revenue during 2010.

"We want to continue our efforts to try to get folks from BP to the table so we can conclude this and come up with something reasonable. We want to try to resolve our claim move forward and not go through the legal aspect of having a lawyer," Dombrowski said.

BP's spokesman didn't attend the Tuesday night public hearing.  Melick heard accounts about what was discussed from the media.  

He said there was no doubt the company was willing to work with Gulfport to reach an agreement.  He says the $260 million dollars given to Harrison County alone should be an example of that.

Walker, the council's vice president says that money for oil spill cleanups not the same as money for recovery and loss. Though monies have been allocated to Harrison County, Walker says the city of Gulfport has not received any payment at all for recovery and or losses.

During the meeting Walker offered an example showing that the money BP gave for fighting the spill was just that.

"It was like BP set fire to your house, then gave you money to buy a water hose to fight the fire. Once the fire as out and you anted them to pay you for rebuilding, they say - what more do you want? I already bought you a hose,'' Walker said.

"Right after the spill they sent money to the state. The state made some of it available to us for oil spill fighting operations. That's not fair. That's not what they're spending hundreds of millions of dollars on TV telling us they're doing and we're not going to tolerate it," Walker said.

James Miller, a local fisherman, says the gulf oil disaster is still hindering his income and although the tourism industry is promoting the rejuvenation of the coast.  He still isn't seeing the results.   "Businesses cities and counties rely on tourism, shrimp sales, and it's not happening. Our economy is not rebounding and recovering yet. I'm so sad seeing how they're putting all these commercials out saying that we're recovering from the oil spill and we're really not," Miller said.

City leaders say what they want most is transparency, consistency, and fairness with the claims process.

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