Gulfport mayor outlines financial challenges facing city leaders - - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport mayor outlines financial challenges facing city leaders

Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel

Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel says the city is "working smarter".

The mayor spoke to a chamber of commerce meeting Thursday where he outlined accomplishments and discussed the tough financial decisions now facing city leaders.

Among the more controversial issues: A consultant's report that recommends closing fire stations as a cost-cutting move.

"We've reduced staff 120 employees, but we haven't reduced services. We're just working a little bit smarter," said Mayor Schloegel, as he addressed a morning crowd at Island View casino.

Gulfport leaders will soon consider even more ways to cut spending and streamline services.

A 162 page consultant's report recommends reducing supervisory police positions and closing fire stations.

"We've got too many fire stations. We've got five fire stations within two miles of each other in a cluster, near where we are today. That's too many," said the mayor.

The mayor's recommendation earlier this year to close Station Four was rejected by city council.  He expects opposition again, as closures are considered.

"Start to talk about closing one of those stations and I can tell you, these council people are going to have thousands of folks who come up and rattle the cage. Don't touch my fire station!" said the mayor.

"When you look at the Orange Grove area with four stations and they actually serve almost the same amount of people as the eight fire stations south of the interstate, it really is something we need to take a look at," said city council member, Cara Picheu.

The mayor says a review of the calls adds to the argument for consolidating stations. One station in the cluster of five had 1,600 calls last year, another--just 300.

"And it's not a matter of trying to penalize anybody. It's working smarter," said Mayor Schloegel.

The mayor says residents can expect some significant road improvements soon.  A $10 million dollar bond issue will repair or repave 52 miles of streets.

He promises there will also be an announcement next month about the future of the old VA property.

Mayor Schloegel says another financial challenge facing the city involves upgrades to the sewage treatment plant near the airport.

Depending which option city leaders choose, that project will cost Gulfport between $20 and $80 million.

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