Public Input Sparse on Budget

Gulfport residents and city council members were pretty much in agreement on tweaks to be made in the proposed 2016-17 budget at a workshop Thursday, August 11 at City Hall.

However, fewer than two dozen people, including the heads of several municipal agencies, sat in the audience during the low-key discussion on the city’s $11,428,500 budget, which must be adopted by September 30. Only five members of the audience provided input during the public comment period at the start of the meeting.

Among them, one resident asked for repairs and expansion of the city’s tennis program and courts; another thanked Public Works Director Dan Sopak for consistently lobbying over the years for improvements to the city’s aged sewer system; and representatives of the Gulfport Merchants Association recommended more public art on structures such as bus shelters and trolley stops, replacing the city’s worn welcome flags, and establishing gecko-themed information kiosks.

Next, City Manager Jim O’Reilly reviewed core aspects of the budget and reminded residents and council that adding anything new means money would have to be found for it.

“We have to look at what the long-term effects are,” he said.

O’Reilly noted that Gulfport residents expect a high level of personal service, and that the city continues to fund a number of programs that might have to be reconsidered in a more austere economic environment.

Mayor Sam Henderson told the assembly it was good to make suggestions for the future, even if they couldn’t be funded this year.

After each member of council outlined their various suggestions, they and O’Reilly agreed to look into some for this year’s budget, including:

Locating a bus stop at Town Shores and an information kiosk with a digital screen display.

Establishing an oyster bed to promote the health of Clam Bayou.

Improving the tennis courts at Chase Park.

Removing vegetation to improve drainage at the end of Quincy, 44th and 50th streets when it rains.

Hiring a part-time code-enforcement officer.

Reapplying for a grant for the Gulfport bike trail.

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