Mayor Ken Combs wants Gulfport residents to have all the facts about the water and sewer crisis now facing the city. That's why he personally paid for a newspaper ad.
Mayor Combs admits the water and sewer crisis is more frustrating than he imagined. His message to the citizens offers a brief history of the problems, along with an outline for progress. The mayor urges unity and calls for an end to political positioning and propagandizing.
"The fact is I ran last year's campaign on the fact that we faced a water and sewer crisis in the city," explained Mayor Combs, as he discussed the advertisement in his city hall office.
Water and sewer concerns may have helped Ken Combs reclaim the mayor's office. But the ongoing issue has grown into a much larger crisis than even he imagined.
"We've got to increase our water pressure in Orange Grove. And we've got to repair our sewer system in all sections of the city."
Much of the attention has been on the annexation of Orange Grove and the city's purchase of a utility company there. But Mayor Combs says all residents will help pay for improving the sewer and water system.
The ad says predicted rate increases are no doubt on the way.
"Some people seem to think the only place that's paying for these improvements is the Orange Grove area. And that's not true. All areas of the city are paying equally," the mayor explained.
New development adds to the tax base for providing future funding. But such growth also stresses the city's overworked water and sewage system. A $15 million bond issue will help upgrade the water system in the high growth area near I-10.
"Spend about $6 million in building a loop system up Highway 49 from I-10 up to the north city line. And that's going to immediately make an improvement in pressure up in that area."
The mayor's message calls for unity among citizens and city leaders.
"Let's all pull together. Let's work together. And get the problem solved."
The mayor's message also contains an apology to the residents of Orange Grove. Although the city did publish the required legal notices, Mayor Combs says Gulfport could have done a better job of letting them know about the change from a flat rate bill, to water meters.