Supers hot over ice house proposal
By Dwayne Bremer
Apr 18, 2017, 17:07
The Hancock County Board of Supervisors had hoped to use Tidelands funds this year to complete an expansion of McLeod Park, but instead, it recently learned that state leaders want to allocate $300,000 for a beach-front ice house which nobody locally had mentioned.
Each year, governmental entities across the Coast submit a list of projects which it feels will benefit their respective communities.
The state then allocates Tidelands funds, which are collected from a number of sources, but primarily through gaming revenue.
Supervisors had hoped to receive about $400,000 this year to complete an expansion project at McLeod Park, however, the board recently learned that it will only be receiving about $200,000 for the project.
Much to the supervisors surprise, however, there was a $300,000 allocation for a new ice house facility.
Hancock County does not have an ice-making facility along it's beach front and the project would presumably benefit both recreational beach users and the seafood industry in Lakeshore and Clermont Harbor.
Board of Supervisors President Blaine Lafontaine said Monday that supervisors were not involved in any discussions about an ice house.
"We turn in our list of projects every year and this is the first I have heard of it," Lafontaine said. "We want to know where this is coming from and who is pushing it. We have other projects that are incomplete."
Tidelands funds are granted through the legislature's appropriations committee.
Both District 46 Sen. Philip Moran and District 122 Rep. David Baria said Monday they were not included in the discussions about the ice house.
"I heard a little talk about it, but nobody asked me how my local boards felt about it," Baria said. "I kept asking if they had contacted the board of supervisors, but nobody seemed too interested in doing so."
County Administrator Eddie Favre said Tuesday that supervisors want to know more about the project before moving forward.
"There is just a lot of uncertainty," Favre said. "Is this supposed to be a county project? Is it a DMR project? Is it a state project? We are trying to figure that out."
District One Supervisor David Yarborough said Monday that the lack of communication concerns him.
"I want to get to the bottom of this," Yarborough said. "If I find out that anyone working for Hancock County is behind this or pushing this, then I will make a motion that we fire them."
A project being forced on Hancock County by the state is not something new.
After Hurricane Katrina, the board of supervisors--at the urging of Jackson--approved project to expand the highway leading from the northern gate of the NASA Space Center to Pearl River County.
Supervisors complained at the time that the project did not benefit Hancock County and that the money could have been better used elsewhere.
Much like the road project, the proposed ice house could cost the county big bucks, officials said.
The $300,000 allocation is apparently only half of the funds which will be needed to build the facility and there is no guarantee of additional Tidelands allocations to cover the rest.
If and when it would be built, supervisors would have to maintain it and insure it.
The county would then either operate the facility or lease it to a private company. Lafontaine said the board's main concern is communication.
"We want to know what is going on," he said. "I think we have a pretty good idea of what we need here in our county."