by Calvin Ishee, Associate Publisher
Over the past year; although especially over the past six months, citizen activism has grown exponentially in Pass Christian. Back in 2020, attendance at Board of Alderman meetings could be typically be counted on both hands if not one.
However, times have changed. For example, just in the past few months one citizen rose to complain about the lack of action towards resolving her brother’s murder, another chastised the board for opting out of the Mississippi Cannabis Act, others protested the use of TIF to support a $57M project in West Pass Christian and many others have expressed their ongoing concerns about flooding, litter, sidewalks, paving and potholes as well as a list of other grievances.
At the April 5, 2022 Board meeting, several Pass Christian residents took the floor to ask questions and express outrage over the slow movement on the Lynn Circle Project.
Mariah Fruze, a local citizen and regular attendee at Board of Alderman meetings not only asked questions but also called out Ward 4 Alderman Victor Pickich for allegedly selling his vote.
Furze commented, “You are quoted as saying why you changed your vote. You flipped your vote so that you can get things done in your ward, which is exactly what happened….you flipped your vote buddy.”
Fruze intimated that Alderman Pickich changed his vote from not supporting a job change involving Tom Duffy, Building Inspector/Code Enforcement Officer to then supporting the job change in order to get $38k worth of work orders completed in Ward 4.
Although Alderman Pickich didn’t deny changing his vote in order to get work done in his ward, he did deny doing it for the Board approved $38k in work projects.
The alderman explained that he had received numerous complaints and concerns from Ward 4 residents regarding the potential work stoppage if the City didn’t have anyone to do building inspections.
Alderman Pickich commented, “Many citizens from various wards reached out to me personally with concerns for the timely completion of their projects with an absent code inspector. Clearly visible around town, new construction and renovation projects abound. Holding up that progress could unnecessarily cost the builder money due to work stoppage. Although I didn’t love the idea of keeping Tom under those stipulations, I understand and empathize with the concerns of the citizens. In an effort to keep their projects going, I voted in accordance with their sentiments.”
In another tense filled exchange between a citizen and the Mayor and Board of Alderman, Ward 2 resident Sharon Saucier blasted the administration for failing to start and complete the Lynn Circle Project in a timely manner.
Saucier has been actively involved with this project since it’s inception, well over a “year ago.”
She provided a chronology of this project which involves a lot of frustration from Lynn Circle residents. She commented, “The date has been changed from January 22 (2022) to mid March, I have an email in my hand that says April 1st and today is April 5th and I have not seen anything being done.”
Saucier went on to question the contractor’s ability as well as the mayors ability to get this project done. Then asked “why was the ball dropped” on this project and then followed up with, “is it because it’s in a minority area?” She then demanded a confirmed date on when the project would be done.
Mayor Jimmy Rafferty went on to explain that he had provided information as it was presented to him by those running this project. Rafferty stated some of the unforeseen circumstances impacting this project such as “supply chain issues”.
Saucier retorted, “I need you as the mayor to be responsible along with everyone on this board to make sure this project gets done.” Mayor Rafferty responded with, “You’re right and it will.”
The resident continually pressed the mayor for when it would be done and the Mayor responded, “As soon as it’s practical. I’ve been here a half a year and we will get it done. We’re doing everything we can Sharon.” Whereby Saucier responded, “I don’t believe that and you know that’s untrue. You know it’s untrue!” The Mayor responded, “What you just said is untrue.”
Ward 2 Alderwoman Regina Charlot expressed her frustration not only with this project, but with inaction by the administration for Board approved actions. Alderwoman Charlot commented, “This Board makes a decision and it doesn’t get carried out and it needs to stop. And if it doesn’t, it needs to be made to the public specifically why.”
A recent statement from the City noted that “Construction is anticipated to begin at Lynn Circle, April 18th! The curb and gutter will be removed to allow for construction of new curb and gutter to improve drainage. A short section of each resident’s driveway will be removed and replaced to allow better flow to storm drains. Construction estimate is 150 days.”
Whether that’s good or bad, the residents of Pass Christian will be the ultimate judge.