Harrison County

Phil Bryant signs bill giving Harrison County control of Coast Coliseum

JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD 
Gunshots were reported at Biloxi High's graduation ceremony at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum on Tuesday, May 24, 2016.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD Gunshots were reported at Biloxi High's graduation ceremony at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. SUN HERALD

The Harrison County Supervisors now will have oversight of the Mississippi Coast Coliseum Commission instead of the state after Gov. Phil Bryant on Friday signed House Bill 1203.

Effective July 1, the bill ends the governor's appointments to the Coliseum Commission and the legislature's control of the budget and the $7 million trust fund.

The legislature put limits on how the money is spent for two years until a new board is in place and has some experience. The county is limited to spending $2 million for repairs, restorations, debt service and capital improvements to the Coliseum and Convention Center through February 16, 2018. After that the bill says the county can spend any or all of the money remaining in the fund, upon the recommendation of the commission.

The bill gives one appointment to each of the five county supervisors. "That way we know every district is represented," said Supervisor Beverly Martin.

The bill says supervisors should consider appointing community leaders who also may work in the "hotel/motel business, large business, small business, the food and beverage industry and large facility operation or commercial real estate."

The mayors of Biloxi and D'Iberville will share one appointment -- as will the mayors of Gulfport, Long Beach and Pass Christian -- to create a seven-member board. These commissioners will serve at the "will and pleasure" of the supervisors and can be removed by a majority vote of the supervisors.

Once appointed, the commissioners should meet on or before Aug. 19, according to the bill.

Martin favors the commission returning to local control for the first time in decades because the state doesn't contribute to the operation of the Coast Coliseum and Convention Center.

"Local taxpayers support it. This has been funded 100 percent by local citizens," she said.

Bryant last year vetoed a similar bill over concerns about transparency and public advertising.

That language was changed and other adjustments made this session, said Matt McDonnell, Coast Coliseum executive director.

The Coliseum Commission will remain a political subdivision. "Instead of sending my budget to the state it will be approved by the county," McDonnell said.

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