BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - When it comes to building projects in Biloxi, the meaning of the term "standard operating procedure" differs depending on who you talk to. Wednesday, Biloxi code officers ordered Harrison County crews to stop working on a parking lot that the county was building for Biloxi on city property. Friday, crews went back to work, but the confusion continued.
Harrison County crews are adding a new parking lot as well as other grounds improvements to make the Ohr-O'keefe Museum of Art more inviting to visitors. Earlier this week, that work was interrupted.
"Our county workers were out here working. Employees of the city of Biloxi through the community development that were accompanied by the police came out here and told them to cease and desist and stop work immediately," said Supervisor Windy Swetman.
Biloxi Community Development Director Jerry Creel said the stop work order was issued because crews were digging on a historical site without plans having ever been submitted to either the Development Review Committee or the Architectural and Historical Review committee.
Creel said, "Every project that comes to the city, every commercial project, goes through those two bodies so that we can check drainage and set backs and landscape and all those kinds of things."
Swetman said in many years of working with Biloxi through an interlocal agreement, the county never submitted plans to those committees. He said the authorization has always come from a resolution passed by the city council, which the council did for this project back in May.
"The standard protocol for years has always been when we're doing projects, any type of construction, we do it at the request of the city where it's spread upon their minutes. This is the same thing," said Swetman. "This was spread upon their minutes. A resolution was passed by the council. And then after that's done, then the county, we'll go to work assisting the city. This is city property. We are in essence working for the city out here."
Swetman said, "Moving forward we'll continue to work as we always have. Any projects that we do will go before the city council for their approval to be passed on the minutes just as this project was done. I would hope that internally the city would have a little better communication internally."
Creel said he is concerned about allowing digging on property that the city has federal funding tied to without any oversight of the layout.
"Again, my understanding is what the council approved was for funding," said Creel. "There was an understanding that the county would be doing the work, but I don't think the agreement was they'd be able to side step of going through the AHRC and the DRC to move forward."
WLOX talked to Councilman Felix Gines. He said his understanding was the council's resolution authorized Harrison County to begin to take the proper procedures to do the work, but the county would have to submit plans for review. Gines said everyone, including the county, needs to go through the proper procedure in order to ensure public safety.
However, Councilman Paul Tisdale said he thought the council resolution was giving the county the permission to proceed.
View the Biloxi City Council's resolution here: http://www.biloxi.ms.us/agendas/citycouncil/2014/052714/052714cexc.pdf