Board of Supervisors Change Escrow Account Expenditures

Harrison County Supervisors say they will no longer buy Mardi Gras throws with taxpayer money. The Boards' decision comes after supervisors caught heat from citizens who read a recent newspaper article questioning the way the board spends money from a one million dollar escrow account.

Last year, supervisors spent nearly $20,000 from the account on trinkets they threw at parades. The article also questioned money the board spends on items for senior citizens centers, youth sports leagues and furniture. Today was the first time the supervisors have spoken publicly or even acknowledged the expenditures pointed out in the newspaper story. They did so in response to comments that came from a roomful of senior citizens who thanked the supervisors for supporting their activities. They said that through the support they give the senior citizens centers the seniors are able to "enjoy life in a time when they don't have too much left, " said one board member. One senior citized said, "I go to the senior citizens center, we have a lot of fellowship. Thank you for the furniture, the living room furniture, the TV." After hearing from grateful senior citizens, the supervisors say they won't apologize for the escrow money they spend on the elderly.

Larry Benefield/Supervisors' President said, "I don't think an apology's necessary to provide a special place for the senior citizens, whether it be a big screen TV that they can see better, the programs they watch during the day or a lounger for them to sit in during the day or some of the different things that we provide for their activities. The supervisors have also heard plenty of criticism about the $20,000 they spent last year on Mardi Gras throws. Supervisor Bobby Eleuterius stressed that money went for eight parades... not just one, "So I wanna make it clear that we're not just out there splurging and just blowing money away. There are eight parades and the economic impact from these eight parades is probably better than $20 million a $20,000 investment for $20 million in my opinion is nothing that I apologize for." But Eleuterius says if taxpayers would rather not see their money spent on throws... the county won't spend it, "If we ride, we'll ride on other floats or private floats and we'll purchase our own beads, that's not a problem," he said.

The supervisors say they will still contribute money to the eight carnival associations... Seven of them get $1750 each year. The biggest organization, Gulf Coast Carnival Association...gets $4500 per year. As far as the senior citizen donations...the board estimates it spends about $50,000 every year on five centers.