Supervisors pen open letter to the community
By Dwayne Bremer
Nov 10, 2017, 22:41
The Hancock County Board of Supervisors on Monday issued an open letter to the community which details the boards' accomplishments over the past year and laid out future goals going forward.
"We are near the completion of our second year in office and we have much to discuss," Board President Blaine LaFontaine said. "Several weeks ago, we held our second annual State of the County Address which highlighted our fiscal year accomplishments and displayed our priorities for the upcoming year. We will continue to communicate with you using social media, annual addresses and an annual letter so you are aware of the way ahead."
In its letter, the board said that stabilizing the county's finances has been a priority.
"We have doubled our ending-year cash balance from $3 million to $6 million and the fiscal year budget operated with a surplus for the first time in five years," the letter said. "After an extensive process, we can now remove taxpayer obligation and concern regarding the fate of Hancock Medical and look to generate revenue for county, expand services and secure a long term partner for our county with Ochsner Health Systems."
Supervisors recently approved a lease/sale agreement for HMC to Ochsner. The final details of the contract should be finalized by the end of the year, officials said.
The sale of HMC will generate about $800,000 in cash while still providing county residents with a local hospital, supervisors said.
A second priority is public safety, the letter said
"Our board established a three-year, $3 million dollar road improvement plan for roads," supervisors said. We will pay for the upgrades with a general obligation bond backed by an expiring debt service tax levy and with annual gaming revenue. Hancock County has continued to fund and improve public safety projects this year, replacing Washington Street Bridge, Crane Creek Bridge improvements and now Rocky Hill Dedeaux Bridge replacement. We also have continued to fund and match the sheriff’s office funds to put our officers in new vehicles to patrol our streets. "
Now that the county is on better financial footing, supervisors said, they hope to spur economic development in the next two years.
"We adopted the county’s first industrial incentive policy with the assistance of our Tax Assessor and Port & Harbor Commission in order for us to compete for projects regionally," LaFontaine said. "We also adopted the county’s first commercial incentive policy for properties on our major roadways in Bay St. Louis, Waveland and Diamondhead."
Other items discussed in the letter included infrastructure improvements; corridor and recreation projects; beachfront improvements; and the creation of the county court system.