Jones Park Sparks Heated Debate At Gulfport Council Meeting

On Tuesday, the Gulfport City Council began discussing what action to take against Councilman Billy Hewes for repeatedly talking about Jones Park development. They've been advised not to talk about the park, because of a pending lawsuit over the city's use of the property. But once again, Hewes brought up the issue.

Billy Hewes says "Folks, if we can generate $8 million a year and up, with free enterprise footing all the bills, we might be able to eliminate this entire debt that we have".

Hewes wanted to introduce a proposal to put the future of Jones Park to a public vote in November. The proposal would allow for a casino-hotel project in Jones park to generate money to help pay for water and sewer improvements and ward off any tax hikes. But since the issue was not on the agenda, it sparked a heated exchange between Hewes and Council President Ricky Dombrowski.

Ricky Dombrowski says "That is another resolution that you would have to present and I'm calling it out of order". Hewes responded "You're the chairman, but you're out of order, saying I can't do this. I want an opportunity to go ahead and present this". Hewes got to read his proposal, but the council did not act on it.

The outburst caused Councilman Chuck Teston to question whether any step the council takes, can keep Hewes quiet about Jones Park. Holding up the resolution, Chuck Teston says "He's going to say whatever he wants to. You just heard him with the president, so what legal authority is in this thing city attorney"? City Attorney Harry Hewes responded "This states your position".

Six council members agreed it's important to state their position. So, they passed the resolution, letting the judges and the public know they oppose Hewes' promotion of Jones Park for commercial development.

After the vote, Hewes says the council's action won't stop him from speaking his mind about Jones Park. And Councilman Richard Rose says if Hewes brings up the issue again during a meeting, the council still has the right to censure him.

By: Trang Pham-Bui