Pascagoula council talks strategy, priorities

September 4, 2013 

What brings people to a city?

Jobs? Housing? Schools? Infrastructure? Services? Healthcare?

What will keep them there? What are the short-term and long-term goals for the newly seated Pascagoula City Council?

Councilmembers, led by Mayor Jim Blevins, discussed those and other issues during a work session Wednesday morning at city hall.

"It's probably a combination of jobs and housing," Blevins said, answering the question of what is the No. 1 requirement in a place where people choose to live. "But, jobs drives the bus ... the good news is we have jobs in Pascagoula."

While the hike in flood insurance premiums was discussed as a potential deterrent to people moving to Pascagoula, it is not driving the decision of where people live, Councilwoman Brenda Simkins said.

"People are moving to other areas of the Coast," she said, naming Mobile, Oceans Springs, Gautier and Vancleave. "If we focus only on insurance, we are doing ourselves a disservice."

Of course, there are other issues councilmembers named - drainage and building codes that drive up construction costs among them.

The council discussed short-term goals, including addressing blight, enhancing gateways, the need for a recreation complex, bike paths, sidewalks and curb maintenance.

They also listed goals for the long-term, such as riverfront development - "that's a big item for me personally," Blevins said - and Lowry Island, where Phase I of upgrades has already started.

Identifying and recruiting businesses was set as a short-term goal, with Blevins adding that he'd like to find a way to help existing businesses do better. "There are a lot of ingredients (in Pascagoula) that makes this an attractive community for business," he said.

Councilmembers also agreed there's an opportunity in Pascagoula to provide recreational facilities such as a 16-field complex for hosting tournaments or a natatorium for swim meets. They'll hold a separate workshop to discuss those possibilities.

As part of infrastructure development, the council received a $120,000 check from the Mississippi Department of Transportation for a Safe Routes to School project near Jackson Elementary School.

The project will add signs and school zone flashers at the entrance to the school, along with roadway striping to designate crosswalks in the school zone. It will also include the construction of ADA accessible sidewalks. The program encourages children to walk and bike to school by making access to schools more appealing.

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