Bay Council eyes millage increase
By Cassandra Favre
Sep 10, 2016, 00:42
The Bay St. Louis City Council held a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed millage increase of two mills.
Michelle Davidson, a resident of Ward Six, spoke on behalf of about 35 of her neighbors. A majority of the homeowners can't vote, but have been "fueling this hot mess of a city government for years with their tax dollars, she said. In all of the places to choose from, they picked Bay St. Louis to spend their retirement years, she added.
"We are your regulars at downtown restaurants, in shops, groceries and gas stations and have been filling the city's coffers with unending tax dollars that never quite seem to make it past Wards One, Two, Three and Four," Davidson said. "I can't believe that a group of men who are unable to account for over $300,000 in taxpayers funds and are able to cut spending, but are totally unable to control the spender. We can't believe that you have the nerve to come to us and ask for more money or increase our taxes."
Garden Isles resident Sam Moore told the council that "we all pay equal taxes," but people in his ward are receiving fewer city services since the annexation of Wards Five and Six. He told the council he would "highly discourage" a millage increase.
Virgil Ishee, resident of Ward Six, said since he moved to the area about six years ago, he's seen "very, very little."
"The most important thing we've had was when they put the rock in the road, that was some improvement" he said. "But now, our streets our falling apart, the ones that are paved have potholes in them and it's hard to drive. We would feel better about paying more taxes if we could see that we got something for what we have there."
Council President Lonnie Falgout told the crowd the possible two mills increase will cover costs in fire and police protection services, but no vote has been taken on the matter.
In a separate matter, several downtown bar and grill owners approached the council about issues with a sound ordinance, or lack thereof.
Roger Caplinger, owner of Buoy's Bar and Grill, said, for the second holiday in a row, he has been "harassed" by police officers regarding sound ordinance issues.
"We don't have a sound ordinance, as you all know," he said. "So I don't know where they're able to come and say anything to us about a sound ordinance, number one. Number two, they have no say in the hours that anybody is doing."
When officers show up at night with their lights on in front of the restaurants and bars, patrons are "dumping" out of the establishments and owners are losing money, Caplinger said.
"I'm simply asking, on behalf of all the bar owners here, that let's get to an idea of what it is we're going to do about this or get some people in to check about what we're doing about this," Caplinger said.
The state statute on disturbing the peace has nothing to do with playing music in a bar, he added.
Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame said if officers go out, they are responding to a complaint.
Caplinger said, by law, a person has to swear an affidavit and file charges in order for that complaint to have any "teeth."
Resident Joe Monti said his wife made the complaint at about 1 a.m. The couple live about a quarter-mile from the business. When the police officer arrived at their residence, Monti said the officer told the couple that it sounded like the concert was in their front yard.
"It's not like this all the time," Monti said. "I think we need to find a way to make things right for all concerned. The residents deserve the same amount of respect that we want to give to business owners. The city council needs to come up with an ordinance or guidelines."
Caplinger said he would like to get to the bottom of what bar and restaurant owners are allowed to do.
The council scheduled a workshop to discuss noise ordinances on Monday at 5:30 p.m.
In other action:
• Fillingame presented a proclamation to the Dixie All-Stars team in recognition of their achievements at the World Series, a first for a team from Bay St. Louis. The team placed fifth. He also declared Sept. 6 "Dixie All-Star Girls Baseball Day."
• The council approved the closures of North Beach Boulevard, Main Street, Blue Meadow Road, Pine Street and Athletic Drive from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 15 in observance of Bay High School's homecoming parade.
• The council heard a proposal from Rodney Necaise, co-owner of Omni Technologies, regarding an all-inclusive preventative IT program for city. The city currently has a reactive plan, which means users call a technician when they have a problem. The proposed cost per month would be $6,350 for up to 100 network users. The council took the matter under advisement.
• City engineer Jason Chiniche provided the council with updates regarding numerous projects. There will be two bids next Tuesday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. regarding Phase I drainage and Phase II paving. Chiniche said they now have a notice to proceed from the contractor on the Bay St. Louis wave screen. Work is scheduled to begin on Sept. 15. Chiniche said there are 60 working days left on the contract for the Old Spanish Trail sidewalk project. Chiniche also anticipates a two-week completion schedule to finish the paving in Ward Five, weather permitting. Two weeks ago, Chiniche said, he submitted two grant requests to the Department of Marine Resources.
The first for a pump out system and the second for a day pier extension and an additional restroom and laundry facility. The council also asked city attorney Trent Favre to review Chinche's proposal on streamlining the building department.
• Several residents spoke out against Anita Warner's application for a variance to the zoning ordinance in order to construct a six-foot aluminum fence on her front yard property line fronting on Third Street and Caron Lane and extend it to the side yards. The Planning and Zoning Commission denied the recommendation that the fence be aluminum and have a 10-foot set back. Many residents said they didn't want the fence or greenery there because it would obstruct people's vision. Warner attended the meeting and presented the city with photographs indicating similar fencing surrounding her residence. Ellis Anderson, a representative from the Historic Preservation Commission, told the board, after Warner and others had left the meeting. Two weeks ago, they voted down her request. Her choice was to appeal to the city, which Warner did, and the council sent her request to planning and zoning. The council granted the variance with the stipulation that the six-foot fence be constructed out of aluminum made to look like wrought iron, no obstructions in the right of way and a 20-foot set back on the corner and regular setbacks on the front and side, which is 20 feet.
• Katherine Johnson, who owns a business located in the 200 block of Main Street, asked the council to notify downtown business owners when the street will be blocked off for special events. Last Saturday, Johnson said, she didn't get any business until about 2 p.m.
• During the attorney's report, Favre told council members he reviewed the "to go" cup ordinance and needs an updated map indicating the designated district and licenses from business owners. Last month, the council hired Favre as the city's new attorney. Since then, he said, he has been familiarizing himself with the city's litigation files. The Murphy case is still pending appeals and the city is still a party to that case, Favre said. An oral argument is set for Tuesday. Favre said it would be beneficial if the city kept track of what's going on in the case. "The worst case, it comes back and starts over," he said. Scott Favre Public Adjusters' case against the city is set to go to trial in December. The city also signed several letters of agreement with Favre, as a representative of Jones Walker, at the rate of $150 per hour to represent the city in the cases and transfer them to Favre's name.
• The council moved the following agenda items to discuss at the Sept. 20 meeting: Payroll amendments, budget amendments, proposal for property management of city buildings and vacation rental ordinance.
• The next council meeting will be held on Sept. 20 at 5:30 p.m.