Members of the Hancock Chamber met with the Hancock County Board of Supervisors during a Coffee Call meeting to learn more about what projects are underway to help grow the economy.
“The business community is your partner in economic development,” said Stephen Schruff, President of the Hancock Chamber with Mississippi Power Company. “We are a resource to our governmental leaders to focus on issues that are important to our members, and look at how we can work together to foster small business growth.”
Blaine Lafontaine, District 3 Supervisor and President of the Board provided an informative briefing on behalf of the Board. Also present from the Board were: Greg Shaw, Scotty Adam, Vice President and Darrin “Bo” Ladner.
Lafontaine reported that the County’s general fund budget for FY18 is $22,118,000 with a total budget at $44,690,000. At this time, revenues are 9% over the adopted budget or $2,012,000.
He announced that Hancock County is the first in the state to form a regional pavement preservation plan with the cities through the South Mississippi Planning and Development District. He also provided an up-date on road and bridge improvements in the northern part of the County.
The Supervisors have made a concerted effort to partner with the cities on other projects like the new Lighthouse Project in Waveland. They are also planning more beach parking and have applied for funding to make the Washington Street Beach ADA accessible.
The Supervisors just cut the ribbon on the new $6.5 million sports complex on Highway 43 that features five new fields to attract visiting tournaments. They have also built four new playgrounds throughout the county; and, are looking at expanding recreational offerings and amenities at McLeod Park and the Arena through public / private partnerships.
Lafontaine provided an up-date on other projects announcing that the 25 year lease/sale of Hancock Medical to Ochsner Health System is final, which will stabilize services to citizens and reduce taxpayer obligations. The $7.5 million bond that was due in 2020 has now been paid off by the trustees.
The top project for the county to secure RESTORE funds is the expansion of Pearl River Community College in Hancock County. Six acres of land has been purchased at Stennis International Airpark to establish a future campus and aerospace academy. “This is critical to establishing pathways to jobs at Stennis and the Port Bienville Industrial Park,” said Lafontaine.
Another initiative of the county this year was to establish a county court. The Court, led by Judge Trent Favre, reports that the number of children in foster care has been reduced from 389 to 259.
The County is also collaborating with the Hancock Chamber and the cities to establish a network of visitor way finding and gateway entrance signs. Over the next week and in the coming months, citizens will begin to see new signs placed throughout the county in an effort to welcome visitors and drive traffic to area businesses. The Port & Harbor is planning a system of signs at the industrial parks as well.
Lafontaine also announced that during the legislative session, a bill was passed to give the Supervisors the authority to maintain Hancock County’s position as part of the Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau. The 2% hotel and motel tax, which only generates around $130,000, can now be utilized to insure that Hancock County is part of all Coast tourism marketing that is being managed regionally and supported with $4.5 million in revenue from the bed tax derived primarily from Harrison and Jackson counties. Lafontaine said this is not a new tax and no additional taxes are authorized. He also said that discussions are underway now with regional staff and the Hancock County Tourism Bureau to look at how tourism will be managed locally after October 1st.
Chamber Coffee Calls coming up next are: Friday, June 29th with Waveland Mayor Mike Smith at The Rum Kitchen; Thursday, July 12th with Bay St. Louis Mayor Mike Favre at Hollywood Casino Gulf Coast – The Bridges; and, Thursday, September 27th Diamondhead Mayor Tommy Schafer at Diamondhead Country Club.
The Coffee Call with the Board of Supervisors was sponsored by Mississippi Power Company, Hancock Whitney Bank, The Silver Slipper Casino Hotel, AMR, Coast Electric Power Association, South Mississippi Planning & Development District, and James J. Chiniche, PA, Inc. Engineering and Surveying, Compton Engineering, Hill and Brooks Coffee, Serious Bread and McDonald’s.