Harrison County

10 things you need to know about the state of Harrison County in 2019

Replenishment project, not exposed seawall, is the only way to fix Harrison County beach

Harrison County Sand Beach Director Chuck Loftis explains the problems of maintaining a man-made beach, and why exposing more of the sea wall won’t solve the wind erosion problem.
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Harrison County Sand Beach Director Chuck Loftis explains the problems of maintaining a man-made beach, and why exposing more of the sea wall won’t solve the wind erosion problem.

He declared Harrison County to be in “excellent shape,” and then Harrison County Board of Supervisors President Marlin Ladner highlighted projects and programs that are ongoing or coming to the county in 2019.

A crowd of 400 attended the Coast Chamber of Commerce State of the County address at IP Casino Resort on Thursday morning. These are the highlights:

1. No tax increases

Ladner said the county hasn’t raised millage in more than 20 years, and this year the Harrison County School District isn’t asking for an increase, an announcement that brought applause from the crowd. The county gets .8 percent of the gross casino revenue that it shares with the schools.

Whether they have a casino in their district or not, he said, “All the schools in Harrison County do receive some portion of the casino tax.”

2. Sports-betting boom

Coast casinos had their best December in the 26-year history of the industry. Revenue of more than $1.2 billion was the best showing on the Coast since 2008, before the Great Recession hit.

Ladner said he hopes one day there will be a casino in the county’s unincorporated area, “which would be very helpful.”

3. New industry

FL Crane & Sons, a finishing contractor, is moving into the North Harrison County Industrial Complex near Saucier. It is the first business in the industrial park and Ladner said that like a model home, he expects it will draw others to the park.

The business will create about 50 jobs, he said.

4. Stopping sandy roads

The state and county spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to remove sand from U.S. 90 along the 26 miles of sand beach in the county.

Ladner said officials thought the “common-sense approach” would be to lower the sand profile and reveal more of the seawall. But “the Corps of Engineers informed us that was not going to happen,” he said.

The sand protects the aging seawall, he said, and the county is instead planting sea grass on the sand dunes to help keep it in place.

The county also now has 21 fire pits on the beach that can each be rented for a night for $25.

5. More Biloxi parking

An extra 100 parking spaces are being added at the Biloxi courthouse, where he said parking has been a problem.

6. A ‘hot spot’

The nursing and pharmacy schools and other medical complexes at Tradition have the potential to bring $2 billion in investment to the county.

“That’s potentially a really hot growth spot in Harrison County,” he said.

7. ‘Optimistic’ on mental health crisis

Harrison County, along with supervisors in Hancock, Stone and Pearl River counties, are working to continue mental health services in South Mississippi following the crisis at Gulf Coast Medical Health.

Ladner said he is optimistic that services can be maintained.

8. Hotel finally comes to Coliseum

A 150-room, Mariott-brand hotel at the Coast Coliseum and Convention Center will be built without any public money, he said, because the supervisors were against subsidizing a business that will be in competition with other hotels in the area that aren’t supported by taxes.

The county is funding repairs to the roof of the Coliseum and new carpeting at the Convention Center. The supervisors see the complex as a major asset to county, “and of course we want it to flourish,” he said.

9. Jail upgrades, road center

The county is spending $2.5 million for upgrades and security measures at the Harrison County jail, including computers and software, more surveillance cameras and new locks.

The county also is doing a study of all the roads and is looking at whether to repair or relocate the county work center on Lorraine Road.

10. Expanding water/sewer service

Harrison County is expanding water and sewer services in the unincorporated areas of the county with federal grants instead of local revenue bonds. This encourages development and cleans up the environment, Ladner said.

People don’t realize how many failed septic systems there are in the county, he said, and the runoff “ultimately winds up in the Mississippi Sound.”

Mary Perez is the business and casino reporter for the Sun Herald and also writes about Biloxi, jobs and the new restaurants and development coming to the Coast. She is a fourth-generation journalist.