by Calvin Ishee, Associate Publisher

Based on the active efforts of Ward 2 Alderwoman Regina Charlot, Ward 3 Alderman Kirk Kimball, Code Enforcement Director Tom Duffy, City Attorney Malcolm Jones and Pass Christian resident Margaret Jean Kalif, a concerted effort has been made to keep the City free of litter and blighted properties.

In fact, the war to rid the City of these eyesores began in earnest in the latter part of 2021.  Prompted by Alderwoman Regina Charlot’s concern about litter throughout the City and Alderman Kimball’s concern for blighted properties, an all out war has been initiated to improve the overall appearance of The Pass.

Duffy not only maintains a list of unsightly properties, he also provides an update to the Board at every Board meeting, and the May 3, 2020 meeting was no different.

A robust discussion of these properties were discussed at length whereby Duffy provided an update on actions that have been taken by the City.

Apparently, some of the issues have been resolved but some are headed to City Court.  Duffy explained to the Board on the house that had around 70 pets in the home where initially the house had been determined to be uninhabitable.

However, after a great deal of work by the homeowners, they were allowed to temporarily return to their home.

This decision was based on the fact that the homeowners had no place to live, the house had been cleaned and they could remain there until an air quality test could determine if it was safe enough to live in.

The City will conduct an air quality test and a decision will be made on whether or not the family can safely stay in the house or if they’ll need to find a more suitable place to live.

A long-term eyesore located on Davis Ave commonly known as the Tarpon Beacon was discussed at length.

According to Alderman Kimball, the owners not only received $150,00 in grant money, they had been given ample time to make necessary repairs to the building.

The building has been in a constant state of flux for numerous years.  As noted by Pass Christian Fire Chief Dwight Gordon, this building does not even meet the State Fire Code.  It was also noted that in spite of having many years to fix the building, it still didn’t have windows, floors, running water or electricity.

Kalif commented, “This Board needs to have the backbone to go after these people.”  She went on to note that the City has been dealing with this issue since Hurricane Katrina and that the property owners have been given a sufficient amount of time to bring the building up to code.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Betty Sparkman was adamant that the Board go ahead and schedule a hearing for June 2022.  She commented, “The buck stops here.”  Duffy commented, “It makes a big difference when I take them to court.”

Next up is that the City is going to contact the property owners to outline what must be done and when it must be completed, before additional action will be taken by the City.  The issue will be addressed at a hearing where the property owners will have an opportunity to present their case. At that point the City will determine its next course of action.

Other actions approved by the Board included the appointments of Greg Frederico and Tyler Watters to the Civil Service Commission with a term ending on April 1, 2024; acceptance of the resignation of Harbormaster Marty Tiller effective May 27, 2022;  the advertisement of the Harbormaster position; $82,046 in paving projects in Wards 3 and 4; Claims Docket Expenses of $315,801.89 and the annual donation of $2,000 to the Pass Christian Volunteer Fire Department.

Additionally, the board discussed the possible reorganization of the Community Development/Code Enforcement/City Planning office ostensibly to make it a more effective office.  Several months ago the Board voted to allow Tom Duffy to go from 40 to 30 hours per week which also included a pay raise, in spite of past comments from Board members and citizens alike about the need for additional staff in this office.

So after cutting Duffy’s hours, the board approved the creation of a part time Administrative Assistant position for the Code Enforcement Office,  “to assist the Community Director.”

Duffy commented that this position would take care of the “out of office stuff” that needs to be taken care of such as monitoring short term rentals, code enforcement, derelict properties and office assistance.

Furthermore, according to Alderman-at-Large Kenny Torgerson, the arrangement with Duffy was supposed to be “temporary” until a replacement could be found.

However, based on Mayor Jimmy Rafferty’s recommendation, the Board voted to stop advertising for Dufffy’s job.  Questions that remain unanswered include, if this was a temporary arrangement, why would the City stop advertising this position and why would the Board reduce Duffy’s hours, give him a pay raise and then create a new Administrative Assistant?

Citizens must decide whether these decisions were wise and commonsensical or not.

The Board voted 4-1 to create this new position with Alderwoman Charlot being the only dissenting vote.

Other issues discussed during the Public Comments portion of the meeting will be covered in a separate article.  The next BOA meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 17, 2022, 6 pm at the City Auditorium/Courtroom.