Port Commission Director Frankie Duggan says the water bills are just a small part of the commission's tight finances. Duggan says the commission is financially strapped and they're looking for ways to tighten up. The commission has started doing that by switching the Fisherman Harbor's water bill to the owners.
Joe Lancon opened Fisherman's Harbor nine years ago on land he leases from the city. He says the water was already on and he didn't give a thought that he was responsible for paying the bill. Since at least 1999, the Biloxi Port Commission has paid the restaurant's bill totaling about $40,000.
"We'll get it resolved. It's just an oversight that goes pretty far back and they had been getting' the water bill and somethin' I didn't realize. And if I had realized they was getting' my water bill, I definitely would have been involved a lot sooner," says Lancon.
Two months ago, Lancon began paying his own water bill. Now the commission is researching all of its financial operations.
"We're tryin' to tighten our belts. We're tryin' to get this ship runnin' real tight because we are strapped for money. That's not really the only reason. We should run a tight ship anyway but yeah, I'm tryin' to research and see where some of these things are goin' and I don't wanna have to pay for somethin' I don't have to," Duggan says.
He says money is tight because of rising insurance costs and millions of dollars in damage from hurricanes and tropical storms. Harrison County gives the commission about a million dollars a year. The commission wanted more this year, but Supervisor Bobby Eleuterius says that would mean raising taxes.
"We're still looking though at the possibility of increasing some more milage because of their situation, because of insurance costs which we all face and other problems they're having right now. However it's gonna be down the road before we can make a decision on that," Eleuterius says.
Harrison County funds the port commission's operations. To raise more money, the commission has hiked boat slip fees three times in the last 18 months for pleasure boats only. Duggan says the commission chose not to raise rates for commercial shrimp boats because the shrimpers are having such a hard time making ends meet.