Jackson County

The county sells hay and 5 other things to know about progress in Jackson County

Ken Taylor peppered his State of Jackson County report that he delivered to the Pascagoula Rotary last week with facts most people don’t know about how the county gets revenue and will spend its $83 million budget this year.

The 2019 president of the board of supervisors, Taylor said one source of income is hay. Bermuda grass that grows near the lagoon in West Jackson County is mowed and sold, and he said 125 of the large round bales brought in $4,375 last year.

The county devotes a large part of its budget to maintain 920 miles of roads, 50 bridges and 3 beaches, he said, and is working on about 10 bridges now.

“We have bridges that are in bad shape and bridges that need maintenance,” he said. Every municipality competed for emergency road and bridge repair funds, he said, and on Jan. 22 the county was awarded $14 million to improve the Roy Cumbest and Parker Lake bridges over the Pascagoula River.

Here are 5 highlights from his presentation:

BP money — Jackson County shared in the pain of the BP oil spill in 2010 and Jackson County also should share in the millions of dollars allocated from the BP Restoration Fund to the six Coast counties, he said. “We have got to go after that money,” he said. Two of the 7-member advisory board, who will help decide how the money will be divided, are from Jackson County and five are from Harrison County, and he said he hopes there will be equity.

I-10 connector road — The county has spent about $20 million, he said, on the road that will parallel I-10 and connect the shopping areas in D’Iberville at the county line, across Cook Road to Seaman Road. Only $3.7 million of that money came from county funds. Now it’s time to go out and find developers and bring more retail into our county, he said. Unlike cities, counties don’t get a diversion from state sales tax. For the third year, the county has asked the state Legislature to approve a one-project TIF, or tax increment financing bond, to use as an incentive to attract developers. “Every year we get a little closer,” he said.

Ingalls Shipbuilding and other industry in Jackson County is booming, he said, and the county has to work with them to keep the jobs and revenue they provide. “The shipyard is getting so many contracts they don’t have room to build ships,” he said, so the company is rebuilding and reopening its East Bank facility that will add another 1,000 jobs, he said. Jackson County is helping Ingalls by providing $150,000 for the engineering work to create access to the East Bank, he said. He also looked to the future and the possibility of the liquified natural gas facility opening in Jackson County. “If LNG ever makes through regulatory cycles and becomes real, it’s going to be unbelievable for the county,” he said.

Makeovers — The county will spend more than $1 million to renovate the the interior of the civic center at the Jackson County Fairgrounds, Taylor said. Work will begin after Mardi Gras and be done before the County Fair, he said. The county also continues to improve and expand the animal shelter. Taylor said the county has been charging cities to use the shelter. Instead the county is putting more responsibilities on the cities, “but they no longer will have to pay to use the animal shelter,” he said.

More fun — Taylor said the county wants to keep a good growing economy, keep debt low and also provide an outstanding quality of life. The county just opened the dog park at Cumbest Park in Hurley. it’s been so popular, “Everyone wants to have a dog park,” he said, and Vancleave, St. Martin and Ocean Springs are all getting dog parks. A new soccer complex is coming to Vancleave and in Gautier, where he said there is not enough parking at the soccer complex, the county will spend several million dollars to add more and improve the drainage on those fields so they are playable year round.

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.