Jackson County

Accusations fly at Jackson County supervisors during political forum

KAREN NELSON/SUN HERALD 
 Jackson County supervisor incumbent Troy Ross, right, talks with a resident before the Latimer Civic Association political forum in Latimer on Monday night.
KAREN NELSON/SUN HERALD Jackson County supervisor incumbent Troy Ross, right, talks with a resident before the Latimer Civic Association political forum in Latimer on Monday night.

LATIMER -- The cost of a new county jail, lack of oversight for the county's Singing River Health System finances and road work were key points in the Jackson County District 4 supervisor race Monday night.

All three candidates spoke at a political forum hosted by the Latimer Civic Association in Latimer -- incumbent Republican Troy Ross, Democrat Sean Alawine and independent David Venus.

The tone was set when moderator Cissy Jordan told the audience that white-collar crime and corruption were rampant on the Coast and encouraged people to shine a light on it, ask questions when they attend public meetings and be stewards of their own "hard-earned" tax dollars.

Then she thanked all the candidates, including legislative and constable, for deciding to do something about it by running for office.

About 80 people attended the forum.

Each candidate got three minutes to talk, and after all three spoke, Ross ask for a chance for rebuttal but was told it didn't fit the format, and the meeting closed.

Ross, 37, went first and listed the accomplishments of his four years in office. He's seeking a second term and won all the precincts in the last Republican primary except Latimer, and it was close.

During his talk, he listed improvements planned for the Latimer Community Center grounds, including a splash pad; better fire rating for the area; and improved public electronic access planned for Board of Supervisor meeting minutes, documents and action.

He said the county cut spending by $2.5 million for the coming year, and he said two key road projects to St. Martin schools are coming -- Old Fort Bayou Road work and Washington Avenue intersection.

But some in the audience said after the forum they felt that was overdue, given road improvements to Ocean Springs High School have already been completed.

Ross ended by touting industrial possibilities: "We've got an LNG plant that could bring an $8 billion economic impact."

Alawine, 24, who is working on his masters degree in history, said he not only wants the county hospital system to fully fund employee retirements but also wants to find out what happened to the SRHS money that was supposed to go to retirement.

He hit the current Board of Supervisors for retreating into executive sessions instead of having dialogue with the public and for supporting a George County lake project that the Sierra Club on the Coast opposes because of the impact it could have on the Pascagoula River.

Alawine said, "They said they would investigate it, but I think the county should have investigated before they offered support."

Independent candidate David J. Venus IV, 57, a Coast businessman, started his three minutes explaining his past. Convicted in a 1983 FBI sting that involved others in his family, he told the audience, "I'm not a politician or a polished speaker. But I am honest. I was in the federal prison in my youth, did my time and came out a much, much smarter person."

He has spent 28 years in business, raise a family and is helping raise his grandchild, he said.

He told the audience he talked with a man who lost someone to a traffic accident on the unimproved Old Fort Bayou Road and questioned why that project isn't a priority.

He said county supervisors should have been able to read a spreadsheet and keep better tabs on operations at the county hospital system and he questioned county hiring practices.

"We have appointments, people put in jobs. Are they qualified or are the friends?" he asked.

Then he chastised the supervisors for changing the jail design to modular steel cell construction after spending $1 million on a brick and mortar design.

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