HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Ongoing financial challenges and a possible end to the federal jail oversight. Those are two of the major issues facing Harrison County supervisors this new year.
Harrison County supervisors elected new leadership at Monday morning's meeting: Marlin Ladner is the new president and Connie Rockco takes over as vice president of the board. WLOX News talked with both about what's ahead in 2014.
Incoming board president Ladner has one main wish for this new year.
"For the economy to turn around, so that we can continue to provide the services necessary for our constituents," he said.
The new board president is encouraged about the coast economy in 2014.
"I'm optimistic, especially on the Gulf Coast with things happening. There's some industries developing, the casinos are coming right along. So, I'm optimistic that things will change and improvements will occur," said Ladner.
Speaking of change, Supervisor Ladner says this may be the year the jail issue comes to an end. For nearly two decades, the jail has been subject to oversight by the U.S. Justice Department because of overcrowding issues.
"I think it's time now to say, enough is enough. We've been very diligent in trying to meet their criteria and I think we have. And I think it's time for the county to say to the Justice Department, we've done what we're supposed to do. And if we can't get an agreement with them, I think it's time for us to go to the court and say, listen, we've met our obligations under the agreement and by gosh we need to be released from it," said Supervisor Ladner.
Incoming vice president Connie Rockco is also encouraged about the economy. However, she still warns about the serious financial impact that could come from subsidized housing developments, which county leaders say aren't paying their fair share of taxes.
"Section 42 housing, which will hit our coffers very hard. It will hit the cities, the schools and the county. And in order to provide the services necessary for our entire public, we're going to have to have some resolve for that," said Supervisor Rockco.
Both supervisors say they're hoping the county can continue to hold the line on taxes. The board kept tax rates the same this budget year and also gave county employees their first pay raise in seven years.