Pass Christian is about to get a sales tax boost

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - For three years, the number one question haunting Pass Christian leaders has been, when would the city get a grocery store. And for three years, the answer to that question was always, we don't know.

However, the grocery store dilemma ends on Tuesday. Wal Mart breaks ground that day on its new Pass Christian store, a store that will include a grocery. And a city that's barely getting by on $40,000 a month in sales tax revenue will get the financial jolt that it desperately needs.

Pirate's Cove thrived in a brown building on Highway 90 before Wal Mart ever considered building in Pass Christian. And it's done just fine in a trailer, and now a stand, since Katrina blew away the supercenter. But owner Mike Lamarca realizes the city wins when Wal Mart returns, because Pass Christian's slice of sales tax revenue will get a big boost.

"Wal Mart can only help create traffic in the area, bring people to our town to do their shopping, such as that," Lamarca said. "As long as there's people on the roads, it's gotta get better."

Oysters will be a focal point of the new Wal Mart. Because oysters are such an important part of this city's history, Wal Mart will open an oyster bar in its supercenter. Pass Christian Mayor Chipper McDermott said the oyster bar was an architect's idea.

"We're happy, and they're happy. So that will be something good for us," McDermott said.

Around town are signs that life in the Pass will return to normal someday. But just as projects like the Harbor Town development come out of the ground, the national economy tanks, finances for this project dry up and the city's recovery temporarily stalls.

"It's pretty frustrating having to put everything on hold until things get better," Lamarca said.

Pass Christian has been in knots since Katrina scarred the community. It had no choice but tighten its belt after the city's sales tax base was greatly depleted.

When asked how his city was doing, Mayor McDermott said, "It could be a whole lot better."

The mayor believes Wal Mart is the hook to bring shoppers, and sales tax back to this waterfront town.

"Sure it's going to make it. It's made it for 308 years. We'll make it," the Mayor said.

The Wal Mart groundbreaking is on Tuesday at 1:00pm. The new store should open by early next fall.

Wal Mart bought five additional acres north of its original site to build its new store farther inland. While that store will have an oyster bar, Mayor McDermott says it won't have a service center for automobiles.