Does anyone reckon that Seal, Compretta, McDonald or Hizzoner came clean with Hosemann about the council granting Triple Tails permission to cantilever their building over the green space in direct violation of the lease between the City and the Secretary of State?
I also disclosed that I had contacted the Secretary of State’s Office with some questions on this matter and here one day in advance of another meeting between City Officials and Secretary Hosemann I received an answer to the inquiry, which was:
Did the City ever contact SOS and advise SOS in early 2015 that they were allowing Triple Tails to construct their building over the state owned green space? If so what was the nature of the contact and how was the questions-City requests handled by SOS?
Otis Bounds said he agreed with Carrigee, but said the city needs to “upgrade our building department and put some knowledgeable people in there.” Bounds referenced Carrigee’s tenure in the building department and said even though he didn’t always agree with Carrigee’s answers, Bounds said he knew Carrigee was “always right.”
“If I get an answer now, you better go look it up because it’s probably wrong,” he said. “Either upgrade the building department or keep the bunch you got off the beach.”
Ron Thorp said he was at the meeting where the city of Waveland voted to privatize its building department.
Thorp said the aldermen were pleased with the privatization of the building department because they said it eliminated the phone calls, took the pressure off of them and took the politics out of the building department.
“It saved the city a lot of money,” Thorp said. “If you heard all the people that came up here, the one thing they said is,’if you’re going to privatize it, have someone that is good.’ So we can save money, have it privatized and have a good person in there.”
Councilman Bobby Compretta said, from what he’s heard, he doesn’t think the council needs to fix anything that’s not broken.
At last Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the issue of the City leasing air space over the state owned green space came to a head and such was the major reason that Slabbed was interested in that meeting. To set things up, at the council meeting of November 8, 2016, Mayor Fillingame told the Council there was no written lease for the use of air space over the state owned Green Space at the Harbor used by Triple Tails and when that was relayed to Slabbed, we immediately spotted major potential problems. At this point we need to give a major hat tip to Lana Noonan and the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government who did some major legwork for Slabbed New Media in advance of last Tuesday’s meeting.
First up is the construction of the Bay Harbor courtesy of the U.S. taxpayers, the taking of private land for the Harbor and construction of the new Seawall under the auspices of the US Army Corp of Engineers. After the construction of the Seawall was completed property lines were redrawn and a strip of Green Space between the private property and the seawall was created. It is the City’s inability to manage this small strip of land that is the topic of this post as we explore how one private business, Triple Tails, was able to build and cantilever part of their building over the property line into the air space above the state owned green space. Mayor Fillingame and his administration’s inability to manage this green space in accordance with the lease has now caused major problems that are not easily fixed.
I could write a treatise in real life failed local government from closely observing the workings of the Bay St Louis City government over the past three years but I’m not. I am ready to call it like I see it and can do so in a fairly short post. The overarching principle here is municipal government is dysfunctional because that is exactly the way the Mayor and City Council want it. And yes last night again saw a City Council divided on what I see as a fundamental issue: Council access to the legal services the cost of which is born by the City’s taxpayers. The vote was for more of the status quo.
To blame the financial catastrophe that has befallen the City solely on Mayor Fillingame would be misplaced. Over the past three years I’ve attended meetings where the assembled crowd knew more about operating within the four corners of the state statutes than those charged with governing. A cynical man would automatically think such public displays of ignorance from elected officials could only mean a hidden, self interest based agenda had to be present. The bottom line is don’t hold your breath waiting over the next year for things to improve as the administration is certain to ignore the directives of the City Council that it doesn’t like and the Council lacks the collective political will to force the administration to play nice, for lack of a better term. Even worse, with its current Ad Valorem levy about 33% low compared to its sister Cities here on the coast the problems can only continue. On the other hand given the fiscal mismanagement that’s occurred over the past seven years there is no way I could ever justify recommending giving the current Mayor and this City Council any more tax money to squander. Its a classic catch 22.
By my rough count there are about 11 months before the City’s voters go to the polls and it will take more than a simple house cleaning to cure the structural problems with a municipal government that does not levy enough general fund taxes to fund the delivery of basic city services across the entirety of the City. Politically, the council districts have been pitted against each other competing for the delivery of basic city services. The divide between Ward 6 residents, who are now relying on the County’s good graces to maintain the public rights of way there and Ward 2 residents that sometimes exhibit the attitude the City limits do not extend past the intersection of Washington St and US 90 was on display as recently as this past Tuesday’s regular meeting. Continue reading “Time to Call It: The Dysfunctional City of Bay St Louis, a Municipality Apart….”
And from that headline one could easily conclude last night’s meeting was a complete waste of time since the City Council had to schedule a special meeting for later this week after Mayor Fillingame was unable to answer their financial questions regarding the upcoming budget but it wasn’t for a variety of reasons.
Mayor Fillingame did announce that long time City Comptroller turned City Clerk Katherine Smith is retiring on September 30 along with his selection of Casey Favre to fill the remainder of Mike Benvenutti’s term on the Bay Waveland School Board.
I could end this post here and delete the first three words of the headline and call it a public interest journalism day easily completed so I can devote time to the major investigative project Slabbed is doing on the construction of the Jackson County jail where the stakes are so much higher as personal liberty is at issue rather than the simple squandering of tax money by a small town mayor that is in over his head. I’m not though because last night’s meeting was not the one the public was supposed to see, at least according to the agenda of the meeting emailed to the public by Council Clerk Tilley on Friday. This public record shows up on a variety of locally focused websites besides Slabbed so I might as well join the gang and display an agenda here on Slabbed so everyone can get a flavor of what I’m talking about:
I observed a long time ago on these pages that the City Council could do a better job running it’s meetings by curtailing the very generous public comment periods where a Citizen could get up to the mike, state their name for the record and opine (within reason) to their hearts content on issues facing the City. It made the meetings longer, unnecessarily so in some cases. I also noticed a few months back that a new policy was adopted with respect to the first public comment period that it be limited to agenda topics and the above agenda reflects that fact.
A second public comment portion at the end of the meeting was still maintained where the topic of public comments are not limited. Those people that give enough advance notice can be placed at the top of the agenda like Mssrs. Caplinger and Wells were last for yesterday’s meeting. The policy is still very reasonable and friendlier to the public than many local governments in Mississippi which generally have one comment period that requires advance registration with the board clerk. I like the fact the Bay St Louis City Council has such a generous policy, that was adopted when Ward 4 Councilman Compretta assumed the role of Council President a few months ago. Continue reading “Meltdown on Main: Bay City Council unable to pass FY 2016 Budget due to lack of information”
There is only one problem with this prosecution and one that could create a bill that the taxpayers of Bay St Louis could well end up footing in the denial of Mr. Harding’s right to political expression. I know a few things about this topic and I did not have to look hard to find some links:
A New York man arrested after he gave the finger to a police officer can sue police for malicious prosecution, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday, overturning a lower-court decision that deemed the officer’s response reasonable.
In its decision, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that giving someone the finger is an “ancient gesture of insult” and “is not the basis for a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity.”
This latest bit of jackassery from our local elected officials is certain to dominate the news. These fails would not sting quite so badly if they weren’t all self-inflicted. Stay tuned.
Folks I’ve been very busy all week in the day job but have monitored the slow motion financial meltdown of the City of Bay St Louis, a problem that has been literally years in the making.
Last year during the election then Mayoral candidate Jeff Harding had the city’s financial problems well identified. His claims were dismissed, buried in the re-election campaign of lies told by the Mayor Les Fillingame which contended the City was financially sound, a meme Hizzoner would keep repeating until late Spring of this year when he revealed the City would default on its Water and Sewer Bonds unless they were refinanced immediately, a move that left the City almost $200,000 further in debt. By that time, per the 2013 single audit report, the City’s Water and Sewer fund accumulated deficit was well over $400,000. The City has been broke for over a year.
“I’m still not certain that we are okay on collecting people’s waste water and garbage fees and using them for something else,” Ward Five Councilman Joey Boudin said. “We go out and borrow money after we collect their money.”
Lana Noonan of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government should take a well deserved victory lap:
A majority of the bills are more than four months behind.
“One prompt for me to look into this,” Noonan said, “was that the council just voted for a utility increase.
“If they’re not paying now, how are they going to pay when the rates increase?”
Noonan said the delinquent amounts add up to $265,955 and the utility list was posted online on Sept. 26.
Slabbed was not credited in the story and I’m fine with that. To the extent a couple of the City council members got phone calls after Slabbed published the City’s Utility Aging well tells the tale here. The days of the Sea Coast Echo being the gatekeeper of public information for all things Hancock County are over and that happened years ago with the ascent of this critter called the internet. People are hungry for good information. To the extent what I do here at Slabbed New Media forces the other “dangerous people of the internet” to bring their A games to local journalism is a good thing for the public IMHO. It shows in Cassandra Favre’s story.