by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher/Owner –

After Pass Christian Ward 3 Alderman Kirk Kimball added an addendum item to the agenda at Tuesday, May 16, 2023 Board of Alderman meeting at the city municipal court, the board unanimously approved not increasing the lease for the commercial fisherman at the harbor. Pass Christian Harbormaster Russell Holliman, Jr. told the Board of Aldermen of a traditional 4% increase annually for the commercial fishermen and the seafood market in the city harbor.

Kimball recused himself before the vote due to having family members that have a seafood market in the harbor.

City Attorney Malcolm Jones expressed to the Board that they should vote because the long term lease for the fishermen begins June 1 whereas Pass Christian Alderman Vic Pickich asked about waiving the fee and if this would have burden on the city’s taxpayers.

“The increase is something that the city imposes not something from the Tidelands lease, which is administered by the Secretary of State,” said Jones, in response to Pickich’s question.  “The money the city collects from the seafood dealers is not something we have to give back to the state of Mississippi because it is a part of our lease agreement.”

Alderman-at-Large Kenny Torgeson followed the approach by verifying the state of Mississippi provides the city of Pass Christian with control over harbor leases and other measures.

“We could bring up the oyster production, but it’s a dead subject as y’all know,” stated Harbormaster Holliman.  “The topic now is the seafood in general, the dealers, fuel costs and all of our bait shop people are struggling.  Our seafood processors are still sitting on costs from last year and we’re under $8 million dollars worth of debt from last year, therefore our seafood has no place to go.  Our economy has crashed so much, imported seafood has taken over.”

Most of the restaurants and other businesses are having the same effect because of imported seafood costs.

Holliman spoke of how he thinks this will be an only one time deal and he is reaching out to the commercial fisherman across the board.  He expressed his loss from one of these seafood businesses could cost his department up to $60,000 a year.

Pass Christian Ward 2 Alderwoman Regina Charlot reiterated her moving forward with the waiver as long as the city was in compliance with the state and not going against any grant funds or tidelands.  Torgeson responded that this was an annual thing and the city should come back and review before next lease in June.

Following the end of discussion, a vote 4-0 approved the waiver of the annual long term lease increase at 4% for all commercial fisherman and seafood dealers in the Pass Christian harbor effective June 1, 2023.