Hundreds Turn Out In Jackson County To Hear Buyout Plan

There was standing room only Tuesday night at Ocean Springs Middle School. The crowd came to listen to a very controversial proposal that could eventually lead to the government buying out thousands of low-lying homes in South Mississippi.

Tuesday night was the first time Jackson County residents had chance to hear about the plan.

"We lived on Belle Fountain Beach and there were 87 houses there. There were three left standing. There was a 30 foot surge that hit the beach. Everything, we had a shell of a house left. We had our roof and our pilings," said Ruth O'Quin.

Ruth and Mike O'Quin were among the thousands of Jackson County residents who lost their home in Katrina. They're set to move back into their home on the beach in just nine weeks. but they wanted to learn more about the proposed buyout program.

Ocean Springs resident Irvin Pierce and his wife were also among the 500 residents at the meeting. They recently finished rebuilding their home in Gulf Park Estates.

"For the people who are in the situations that they're in, it should have come up a whole lot sooner. If they were going to do it, come up with something, come up with a plan. This sounds like a good plan for people that don't want to stay, but it's real late, and it should have been done a lot earlier," Pierce said.

Representatives from the DMR and Corps of Engineers were on hand to explain the program.

"The most important part about the buyout part of the plan is one it's voluntary and two it's absolutely aimed at people who are in the difficult position of wanting to relocate to another area, but financially unable to do that," said Bill Walker, Executive Director for the Department of Marine Resources.

Walker also says people who have rebuilt their homes in designated flood prone areas could sell their homes for market price. Jackson County Supervisor John McKay, who organized the meeting, says it would probably take years to carry out the entire plan.

"Federal government, over a period of years, they're saying this program may go on for 20 years, and one year they may buy out in Harrison County one year,the next year in Hancock County, the next year in Jackson County. It's a long range plan to mitigate storm damage," McKay said.

Input from the meeting will be incorporated into a report the Corps of Engineers is putting together to send to Congress. Congress has the final say in the matter.