Harrison Co. supervisors wrestle with beach vendor regulations

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - With the summer tourist season fast approaching, many questions remain about the status of beach vendors.

Harrison County supervisors have controlled beach vendor permits for years. But the Secretary of State is challenging that authority.

That issue of who ultimately controls the beach will likely be decided in federal court.

Monday morning, supervisors made it clear to beach vendors:  the county is moving toward a bid process for those coveted vendor sites along the sand beach.

"They all know that the issue of renewable rights is the fact they were concerned that they did not have access to that beach year after year after year," said Sand Beach Director, Bobby Weaver, as he explained proposed regulations.

Beach vendors listened intently as the sand beach director outlined temporary rules for this year only. Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman has challenged supervisors for control of the beach and the vendor permit process.

"This vendor permit could be null and void subject to what that final decision is in the court matter," Weaver said.

Whatever the court decision, both the secretary and supervisors would like to create a bid process for beach sites.

"Our intentions are to move in a different direction on this. In reference to not granting permanent rights to the vendor license," said board president Marlin Ladner.

The county was moving toward a bidding process when the Secretary of State intervened.

"We didn't continue that process cause we were dealing with the matter of the Secretary of State and his view asserting that he had jurisdiction over it and he wanted certain things carried through,"said Weaver.

"The Secretary of State may have the authority to lease these areas out. So right now, I don't know what you're talking about, we're going to do this and we're going to do that. You ought to wait and see what the federal court is going to do," said attorney Albert Necaise, who represents a beach vendor who's operated at four sites in past years.

"We aren't going to solve everybody's problems. We're not going to make everybody happy. All we can do is the best we can right now and then let's get a decision made and something permanent done and move forward," said District 4 supervisor, William Martin.

Supervisors contend that a federal court order from decades ago gives them ultimate authority over the sand beach.

Board attorney Joe Meadows is ready to file papers in federal court supporting that position and challenging Secretary of State Hoseman's actions to take over the beach and permit process.