by Calvin Ishee
Although the City has effectively continued providing essential services throughout the COVID 19 pandemic crisis, it has done so without the luxury of being able to use City Hall. That will change on June 1st when City Hall will officially “reopen for business”. To ensure the safety of employees and customers alike, the Board of Alderman approved over $2,000 to throughly clean City Hall, the Police Department and the City Courtroom.
The Board accepted generous donations of $5,000 to both the Police and Fire Departments from the Carl J Brown estate, Mary B. Springer, Administrator. Also accepted was $40,212.35 from the Harrison County Utility Authority (HCUA) for the City’s share of the settlement with the City of Gulfport concerning the dispute with HCUA over the countywide solid waste contract. Mayor Chipper McDermott reminded the Board that this suit was based on Gulfport’s unilateral withdrawal from the contract. He further stated that the suit had been ongoing for a over a year and a half and although the City might have been able to get more money out of the suit, he decided it was better to go ahead and settle the matter sooner rather than later.
In personnel related matters the Board unanimously approved the appointment of Betty Sparkman to the Park Commission replacing Merri Haines, term ending March 20, 2020; and the Fire Department replaced one firefighter (FF) first named River with another as FF River Young resigned and FF recruit River Johnson was hired to replace him.
Approved investment of taxpayers dollars included $35,326.38 to Land Shapers to close out payment of all approved paving projects; $214,000 to Motorola Solutions for a new Computer-Aided Dispatch/Records Management System (CAD/RMS) for the new Pass Christian Dispatch Center; $43,626.80 in Claims Docket expenses and $4,542.22 to a firefighter that had exceeded Federal Labor Standards Act allowable hours of comp time. According to City Clerk Marian Governor, although this is rarely done, it has been done in the past. She further stated that to preclude this from happening again, Department Heads would receive regular payroll reports outlying accrued comp time and would be expected to manage them accordingly.
After another robust discussion, the Board voted 4-1 to keep the outdoor basketball courts and splash pad closed until the June 2nd Board meeting. Ward 2 Alderwoman Regina Charlot continued to express her concerns regarding the “safety of our kids”. She stated, “We’re still in this. I’m not for opening it right now”. She even told a story about having to explain to her grandchild why the basketball courts couldn’t be reopened at this time Ward 5 Alderman Victor Pickich voted against this measure stating that “two weeks won’t make a difference” and we “should go ahead and open them now”.
Although Long Beach and Waveland have opened similar recreational facilities, the Board voted to continue keeping these extremely popular areas closed, at least until June 2nd.
In an effort to release some of COVID 19 related financial struggles of Pass residents, the Board voted unanimously to delay late fees until June 10th as well as allowing payment plans for past due balances for up to six months, not to exceed $1,000. Utility Billing Supervisor Jennifer Lizana noted that since April, there were 297 accounts over due. She commented, “this would help folks having a tough time due to COVID 19”.
Public comments included a COVID 19 run down from Fire Chief Dwight Gordon that in his view, shows that the current status of COVID 19 “is not as bad as some people think it is”. Mayor McDermott followed up by stating that “we’re headed in the right direction”. Mayor McDermott also offered an update on the use of golf carts on public roads stating that prior to the COVID 19 situation, the Mississippi House had approved new golf cart legislation, however, no action has been taken since then.
Many residents are currently using golf carts on pubic streets in spite not having formal State approval to do so.