Gulfport Councilman Wants Public Vote On Jones Park Casino

Gulfport Council President Billy Hewes vowed again Tuesday night, not to give up his fight to let voters decide whether to put a casino in Jones Park.

Two weeks ago, the council voted to accept a waterfront development concept, that does not include a casino. On Tuesday, Hewes asked the council to rescind its vote. After a heated debate, the council didn't even consider the issue, because it violated procedure.

Some city leaders say the council has already made up its mind, and it's time to put the issue to rest. Ward 2 Councilman Richard Rose says some people want a casino in Jones Park, but he doesn't want to have one. Rose says he thinks the council has spoken as a majority that it doesn't want a casino in Jones Park. He thinks the council needs to end it now and move on to other city matters that are important.

However, Councilman Hewes says he still wants to let the people vote on whether a casino and hotel project belongs in Jones Park. Hewes says he thinks the council needs to trust the people, and put the issue in their hands so they can decide whether they want to put a revenue-producing project in Jones Park.

Hewes says a casino-hotel development valued at $300 million to $1 billion, could generate between $8 to $15 million a year for the city. He says the money will help fund much-needed city projects, like water and sewer. Hewes says he'll put the public referendum issue on the agenda, for the August 7th meeting.

The council also appointed three more people to serve on the Waterfront Development Commission. The new members are: MaryAnne Barkley of Gulfport, Carl Boutwell of Orange Grove, and Moby Solangi of Marine Life.

The council also agreed to invite representatives of MISCO Marine and the Gulfport Yacht Club to join the group. The commission will work on the details of the waterfront development plan, that was endorsed by the city council on July 3rd.

By: Trang Pham-Bui