Bay St. Louis And Waveland Consider Merger

Merging the cities of Bay St. Louis and Waveland has been discussed for years, but Hurricane Katrina brought the issue to the forefront.

Leaders from both cities are considering everything from sharing certain services, to a full blown merger of the two municipalities.

The tax bases of both cities took a huge hit from the hurricane. Sharing services would be cost effective at a time when money is extremely tight.

But how do the residents view the idea of sharing services or merging the two cities?

Joan Coleman spent Wednesday morning directing a planting project along the waterfront in Waveland. She once ran for mayor of Waveland and says politics are a consideration.

"I would imagine the city officials of both cities would have a problem because whether they merge officially and retain their positions or not is a big question," said Coleman.

"We sold everything two weeks before the hurricane to move down here," said Bay St. Louis newcomer, Kathy Marchant.

It was bad timing on the move, but she made Bay St. Louis her new home.

As for the merger, "You know, they're so close together anyway aren't they? And they're great places. I love 'em both. Love 'em both. They're both kind of the same to me," she reasoned.

Suzanne Marshall hasn't had time to consider the issue. She's been too busy restoring her home on Carroll Avenue.

"I haven't thought a lot about it. I couldn't really say I'm for or against it. Certainly our population has gone down a lot in both communities since then. So, I mean there certainly could be an advantage to the merger," she said.

"With the devastation how it is, I can't see any other way than to join forces," said Shirley Barnes, during a visit to the beach.

But that doesn't necessarily mean this longtime Waveland resident favors a full merger.

"Well, regarding combining the police force and fire and that kind of thing, I would be in favor of that. Now the mayors, they're going to want to be their own little boss in their own little place," said Barnes.

In the history of Mississippi, there has never been a merger between two cities. But perhaps a bigger factor than that history, is the issue of identity.

"I like Waveland. And I think the people that live in Bay St. Louis like Bay St. Louis. That's just the way it is," says Barnes.