Long Beach Lists Its Commercial Priorities

"The clock is running." That's what Long Beach Mayor Billy Skellie told aldermen and planning commission members at a work shop on Saturday.

City officials say Long Beach is in bad financial shape and desperately needs to rebuild its commercial tax base.

They brainstormed to come up with list of priorities in hopes of getting grants from the Mississippi Development Authority.

City officials are trying to balance an urgency of immediate needs with worries about the long term effects of hasty decisions.

Architects and designers want to take a section of Highway 90 in Long Beach and move it father away from the beach front.

However, with time constraints, expenses, and legal concerns, many city officials don't see relocating the highway as a feasible option.

Ward two's alderman Richard Notter said "The reality is the city, if it's going to continue to be a city, is going to have to start moving. Moving highway 90, that's great. If they want to do it later, and they want to buy out developed buildings, that's fine. But the reality is what we need help with right now is to move the city now."

The group voted against pursuing the relocation of Highway 90 and decided to focus on other priorities.

They want a visitor-friendly Jeff Davis Avenue to be a mixture of commercial and residential development.

They want a commercial area built with a theme that extends into the harbor.

Most of all, city officials want Long Beach on solid financial ground.

"We can keep planning for another year or so and that's okay but somebody is going to have to make a call on when some redevelopment can start," said Mayor Billy Skellie.

Richard Bennett of Ward six said "It's just catching us every month. We're treading water trying to keep our head above water. We've already borrowed money. To delay any type of commercial construction is doing harm, and I'm not willing to put the city in debt that we can't dig out of 10, 15, 20 years from now."

City officials believe the workshop allowed them air their differences, move ahead where they have common ground, and hopefully make the right decisions for the community.

"I don't want 20 years from now to look back and say why didn't y'all do better planning," said Bennett. "You have to balance the two because we've got to get some tax dollars into this city."

Restoring commercial development along Highway 90 will get a big boost once water and sewer are restored.

Mayor Skellie says this week the city hired an engineering firm to design a new sewer system for the beach front area.

He expects the project to go out for bids in the next few months.