by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher
In a new business item brought up recently at Tuesday night’s board of aldermen meeting at the Long Beach City Hall, Ward 4 Alderman Timothy McCaffrey brought up a discussion about opening a section of the harbor for a boat launch after hearing from multiple constituents and fishermen. Following McCaffrey’s motion, the city denied opening the boat launch ramps on a 3-3 roll call tie vote with Mayor George Bass casting a Nay vote to declare the motion failed.
According to McCaffrey, Long Beach Harbor was the only one in Harrison County that was not open and did not even function properly.
The “Friendly City” is in the process of completing a full survey in the harbor and has had a partial one already conducted.
“How many surveys will it take to decide to open the harbor,” said McCaffrey at Tuesday night’s board meeting. “I really don’t see why there is any problem and you should launch at your own risk.”
Furthermore, Alderman-at-Large Donald Frazer stated, “I think some of the problem is that there are individuals working with DMR that are telling the fishermen there are no problems in our launch because that’s the phone call I received this week.”
City Harbormaster Bill Angley stood and expressed a severe message to the board with descriptions of debris, pilons, and other unsafe obstacles throughout the harbor. Without a complete survey from a contractor, there are numerous issues of liability and public safety.
“We do not have enough information,” conveyed Angley about only a partial survey completion. “If this becomes a safety issue and you force this, I will resign, because I will not be liable for the safety of everyone who comes in that harbor.”
Mayor Bass calmed the commotion by saying, “There’s a reason we haven’t opened and its because we don’t know what’s in the channel.”
Later, Bass gave a description of all the hurricanes he’d been through as the former city fire chief and expressed the lack of speed in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding. “Until we get our damage assessment, we can’t do a timeline until we get all that together.”
Ward 1 Alderman Ron Robertson spoke about his experience as an engineer and dealing with the regulations on federal funding. “We haven’t been holding our feet, but we’ve been unable to move forward with anything because we’re waiting on funding,” said Robertson in speaking of his conversation with constituents. “They have no idea what process that the city has to go through.”
Finally, Mayor Bass addressed the percentage of FEMA funding they could receive if the assessment was conducted without problems. The emergency declaration money; which was approved by former President Donald J. Trump, was granted on December 31, 2020.
With the Board setting up a vote, Long Beach City Attorney Steve Simpson answered the question about the legal ramifications of opening early and if this could effect federal funding.
“The difference between getting sued with or without the storm is that you have a city employee (Angley) that mentioned debris is floating around in the harbor and unknown potential obstructions that puts the board on notice that you allowed anyway,” noted Simpson. “A completed survey would be a significant piece to helping secure federal funding.”
The board of aldermen voted 3 Yeas from Timothy McCaffrey, Tricia Bennett, Donald Frazer and three Nays from Ron Robertson, Angie Johnson, and Bernie Parker. Ward 5 Alderman Mark Lishen was absent from the meeting where Mayor Bass cast the vote to break the tie and deny this motion.
Subsequently, Frazer asked if some type of letter or a recommendation from the Harbormaster could be given to the board of aldermen. Harbormaster Angley and Mayor Bass verbally agreed to this.