State of the City
Alderman Jennifer Burgess Welcome
Good evening everyone! Welcome to the 2022 State of the City event here at the lovely Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center. My name is Jennifer Burgess, and I am the newly elected Alderman for Ward 1, (or as my son has affectionately termed me, “Alderma’am”).
This event is a way for City Officials and city partners to inform and update the community on projects and plans that are currently being implemented as well as serve as a platform to engage and educate on what the future will and can look like for Ocean Springs.
As a newly elected Alderman, I get asked all the time, “So…how do you like it?” To which I always respond, “I love it! Apparently, I’m just the right amount of crazy”. But in truth, my experiences so far have served to validate this calling to serve my community, and I’ve hit the ground running. I’m constantly learning new things, and although it can be a bit like trying to drink from a fire hose, overall, it’s been exhilarating, challenging, and rewarding. From literally day one, I was tasked with re-writing the entire Animal Control ordinance, which was an interesting experience for me, and for a few months I was dubbed “The Vicious Chicken Alderman”.
Everyone in the various departments, in the City Clerk’s office, HR, all the Directors, and our new Project Coordinator, have all been so accessible and valuable in not only answering my questions but in helping me accomplish things in Ward 1 while navigating all the processes, procedures and potential landmines.
I’m enjoying working with the other Alderman, and I truly believe we have a good Board and it’s a good dynamic. We collaborate, we argue, we work together, and we have fun. I tease that for me sometimes, it’s like having six brothers!
It’s been a pleasure working with Mayor Holloway, and I’m encouraged by his work ethic and commitment to the job. I’m looking forward to being a part of the generational change for the better that this city will see in the near future.
So, without further adieu, let’s find out more about that change for the better!
Mayor’s Youth Council State Of The Youth Address
Presented By President Vienna Ritchie
Good evening, I am Vienna Ritchie, a senior at Ocean Springs High School, and President of the Mayor’s Youth Council, and I am excited to present the 2022 State of the Youth. Thank you to Mayor Kenny Holloway, the Ocean Springs Board of Aldermen, city staff, and our advisor Ravin Nettles. This presentation is focused on the mental health of our youth.
The importance of mental health oftentimes is dismissed by writing off anxiety or depression as lack of sleep and food, when truly these issues impact so many aspects of our everyday lives. In high school, at 18 years old, there is so much pressure to know what you want to do with your life, and how you’re going to get there. The slew of extracurriculars, hours of studying for standardized tests, and striving to keep the perfect GPA, all to curate this perfect resume to send to your dream college to set up your “perfect” life path. All the while you try to enjoy your time in high school, trying to take in everything before you have to grow up. Between expectations from yourself and your peers, the toxicity of social media and comparing yourself to others, to the crushing weight of college decisions, the Mayor’s Youth Council strongly believes that the youth in Ocean Springs are overextended and stressed.
So how can we fix this? How can we as a community support our youth? How can we support the future of Ocean Springs? We believe there should be more opportunities for students to appreciate everything our city has to offer. More green spaces in our downtown area where students can enjoy Ocean Springs would be a great way to relax and take a break from our constant need for excellence. Small businesses could partner with the Mayor’s Youth Council to offer teen nights during the week.
We have two initiatives we would like to propose.
One, a program that we could implement in our school, Notes for Hope. This program would provide comfort and connection throughout our community without the exposure, vulnerability, or sometimes financial stressors that come with face-to-face contact. The high schooler wanting advice would send a letter through an online portal that goes directly to our Mayor’s Youth Council advisor, who would then disperse them to a “mentor” who would be able to write letters back, without either person knowing the other’s identities. These “mentors” could be anyone from a school-aged peer to a caring adult. This program could give connection to those who feel lost, and the ability to reach outside of their immediate family and friends for outside perspective and solace.
The Mayor’s Youth Council also recommends a second initiative, “Connection Day,” an afternoon to unplug and recenter for the start of a new week while also giving the opportunity to feel connected to the community. This event would take place on a Sunday afternoon at a local park, like Freedom Field. Phones would be requested to be on silent to allow for full focus and relaxation. Throughout the afternoon drop-in yoga lessons, meditation sessions, watercolor painting tables, and talking circles would be available to participants to allow for a mental break from the noise of our phones, work, and daily lives and the chance to slow down and be grateful for where we live.
Social media can be so detrimental to mental health, but it can also be used as a positive platform to spread awareness about mental health disorders and resources to help. We recommend shaping a different narrative on social media. Overseeing a positivity campaign with positive images of our city and about each other.
We believe that true connections have a positive impact on each other and on the youth in our community. We should check on each other more. How often do you ask someone “How are you?” and even more so than that, how often are you present and ready to hear a real answer to that question? A simple question can hold the power of connection, and feeling cared for. Because you never know what your friend, neighbor, boss, or coworker is going through, but what you can offer them is kindness.
We, the Ocean Springs Mayor’s Youth Council believe that, along with the city, school district, and community partners, can be the catalyst to help our peers just take a breath. Thank you.
Mayor Kenny Holloway’s Speech
Good evening. Welcome to my inaugural State of the City Address. It has been an active but rewarding 10 months in office. I am grateful to work as a servant leader for this wonderful city that raised me. We’ve been busy but we’re excited to enable growth for the future while keeping our small-town charm.
Thank you to those who have made this night possible. Mosaic Tapas Bar, Glory Bound, The Lady May, Charred, Maisano’s Wine and Spirits, F.E.B. Distributing, Ocean Springs Chamber, Hilltree Marketing, and of course our great staff at The Mary C.
I would like to take a moment to recognize the Board of Aldermen who I have the pleasure to work with every day. Bobby Cox, Alderman-at-large; Jennifer Burgess, Ward 1; Rickey Authement, Ward 2; Kevin Wade, Ward 3; Ken Papania, Ward 4; Rob Blackman, Ward 5, and Mike Impey, Ward 6.
We are very fortunate in how well our departments work together and that shows through the exceptional leadership of the department’s directors. Our employees are always willing to assist when other departments are in need. This helps us operate efficiently as a city. I want to thank City Clerk Patty Gaston, Human Resources Director Mindy McDowell, Police Chief Mark Dunston, Fire Chief Derek McCoy, Public Works Director Allan Ladnier, Planning and Grants Administrator Carolyn Martin, Parks and Rec Director Stephen Glorioso, Building Official Darrell Stringfellow, and Municipal Judge Calvin Taylor. In recent months, we have added Sarah Harris as the city’s project manager, and by the end of this presentation, you will see she will be a very busy lady.
Our relationship with the Jackson County Board of Supervisors and administrators continues to be strong and collaborative. We appreciate their assistance with many of our city projects. A special thank you to Troy Ross, District 4, and Randy Bosarge, District 5 who represent Ocean Springs. Also, to Brian Fulton, the County Administrator.
This has been an active legislative session. We are blessed to have a strong Coast Legislative Delegation, specifically our Jackson County Leaders, I want to recognize Rep. Hank Zuber – District 113; Senator Brice Wiggins – District 52; Senator Jeremy England – District 51, Rep. John Read – District 112; Rep. Manly Barton – District 109, and Rep. Charles Busby – District 111. And I ask that you keep Rep. Jeff Guice – District 114 in your prayers as he lost his wife Belinda to her battle with cancer Tuesday night.
These leaders always advocate for our city and we appreciate them.
I want to recognize Chris Vignes from Senator Roger Wicker’s office. Thank you for attending.
Our city has some fantastic community partners who help elevate the quality of life in Ocean Springs. Thank you to the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce, Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, Historic Ocean Springs Association, Walter Anderson Museum of Art, Ocean Springs School District, Ocean Springs Hospital, and so many more. Thank you for what you do for Ocean Springs.
As Supervisor Bosarge said, “The secret is out about Ocean Springs.” Our city is destined for enormous growth, and we are changing the narrative of how we do business. Through our rebranding efforts, we are striving for more engagement with our residents, creating amenities for our visitors, and working well with those who want to invest in our city. We will continue to preserve the charm and culture of Ocean Springs as we prepare the city for success and progress.
Your city is in good financial shape. Our annual budget is approximately 25 million dollars between the general fund and water and sewer money. We employ on average 190 full-time staff. Our payroll budget makes up about 48% of the overall budget. 11% is capital projects and equipment. 5% goes to professional services. 15% is water, sewer, and garbage. 7% for insurance and utilities. That leaves 14% for maintenance and operations.
Our sales tax continues to increase and is up 1.3 million over the last 5 years. Our 2% food beverage and lodging tax continues to grow which we use to enhance our quality-of-life projects, tourism, and public safety.
Our Police Department does a great job in securing our city and has been accredited through Mississippi Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission since 2015.
We have recently purchased CAD, RMS, and Court software and we are in the process of purchasing and configuring new software for Dispatch, Records, and Police operation, along with implementing software for Court operations to replace a system that was 11 years old.
Our Ocean Springs Fire Department graduated 12 firefighters from the city’s first 1001 Basic Firefighter Academy which has never been held in our County. The graduates consisted of Firefighters from Ocean Springs, Gautier, Moss Point, and Jackson County. We are very proud to be able to have this academy in our city.
Thanks to Fire Chief McCoy, along with our public works department and our Police Department’s dispatch, our city has a new improved fire rating. The class 4 rating will lower insurance rates for residents and businesses with a larger percentage of the overall savings going to the commercial sector.
The quality of life in Ocean Springs is why so many residents enjoy making this their home. Our school district is top-rated in the state with its strong focus on Arts, Academics, and Athletics. Our Greyhounds are on track for greatness.
Our city received another 5.0 water rating which is the highest possible rating in the state.
Ocean Springs has 12 city parks, 11 rental facilities, and 22 athletic fields.
One thing I’ve been focusing on is revitalizing Gay Lemon Park. We have applied for a grant from the National Park Service in the amount of 500,000 which we will match 250,000. The Park will have new lights, fences, concessions, and bleachers. We will also repair the drainage issues on the fields.
Our sports complex continues to be utilized by little leagues, girls’ softball, and soccer.
Our staff at The Mary C has done an outstanding job with creating programming and events for this building. They just hosted the city’s Easter egg hunt and are preparing for summer classes and programs. This historic building houses the Mississippi Songwriter’s Association’s Songs & Stories.
This building has become the ideal place to expand your horizons in arts and culture. Truly a gem in our city.
Our city is focused on increasing engagement and outreach with our citizens. We are utilizing our social media channels and website to keep updates available to the public. We have also implemented CodeRED which is an alert system that you can sign up to receive notices regarding road closures, detours, weather alerts, and other emergencies in the city. These notifications will come right to your phone. If you need assistance with signing up, my office would be glad to assist you.
Infrastructure updates and repairs remain to be a top priority for our administration. As our community grows with businesses and housing, it’s important that the city has the infrastructure to support it. This means updating sidewalks, drainage, sewer, and water. Typically, these projects can be an inconvenience to residents and business owners while they are underway but they are a necessity.
Currently, we are working on
- Enhancements to Ocean Springs Road with a total of 4.8 million dollars.
- Steelman Lane in conjunction with the county to include a new roadway and sidewalk improvements.
- Government Street Sidewalk Phase II which is anticipated to start in the fall of 2022
- Front Beach sidewalk repair and replacement phase 2 has been awarded to Jay Bearden Construction. It is anticipated to start this spring.
- As I’m sure you have noticed our Front Beach is looking great with landscaping and sand and we want to thank the county for its work on Front Beach.
- We have the Porter Avenue intersection in the evaluation stage which is funded through Tidelands grant in the amount of 200,00 dollars. This is expected to begin Fall of 2022.
- On East Beach, we plan to start a multi-use walkway on the south side of the seawall from Halstead to Weeks Bayou and the County will be diverting Tidelands funds to partner with us on this project.
Ocean Springs is truly headed in a positive direction. I have spent a great deal of time in Jackson during this legislative session to advocate for our city’s needs and improvements. Businesses are excited to invest in our city. Whether it’s new businesses or current businesses that are expanding, our city must be able to support the progress. Through the American Rescue Plan Act funds the city is expecting matches from Jackson County and the State that will total approximately 17.6 million dollars. 100% of this money will be spent on water, sewer, and drainage. Our city is old and we have been in what I call band-aid mode. We are repairing things as they occur. This ARPA money will allow us to provide long-term infrastructure repairs and solutions.
These funds will be used for the following projects
- Government Street Drainage Improvements
- Old CCC camp road drainage
Water system rehab
- Downtown area
- Bechtel Blvd to Hwy 90,
- West end of Fort Bayou,
- Highway 90, Washington Avenue,
- Simon, Ogden, and White
Also, Colonial Estates sewer improvements, along with the east side sewer diversion project and east side underdeveloped areas.
We have businesses investing major dollars in our city
- ALDI’S GROCERY STORE is coming and will be their first location on the Gulf Coast. They are expected to hire 20-30 employees with a projected opening in Early Summer/Late Fall.
- The First Bank will have a new location on Government Street. They recently held their groundbreaking ceremony.
- The Collective located in the Porter Avenue Redevelopment District is currently underway in Phase II construction. This project will provide a space for creative and craftspeople to come together to share their talents. Phase I was completed in 2020 with The Beatnik Hotel. This project has been selected for Gulf Coast Restoration Fund dollars by the MS Legislature which will go to improving the public amenities (green space and amphitheater) for the community.
- 1515 Government Street is located at the Old Swingster Property and will begin construction in early summer. The project will include a 32-room boutique hotel with a restaurant/bar and event space and 16,000 SF of retail space including additional food and beverage offerings. Also included will be 12 condominium units located above the retail space, Landscaped courtyard which will be used as an event space, and 250 on-site parking spaces.
We received a Tidelands award in the amount of $360,000 to raise Washington Avenue from LaFontaine Street to Front Beach Drive. As you are aware this road floods frequently and this should alleviate that flooding.
The legislature allocated 2 million dollars to relocate our Public Works Department. The area where our Public Works Department is currently located has great potential for future development. This project, when finalized, will be a transitional development that will bring major tax dollars to Ocean Springs. We are really looking forward to the prospects of what might happen here.
The Board of Aldermen and I are excited about the future of the Fayard Property on Front Beach. This property has become an eyesore for those who have driven through this area for many areas. We plan to develop this property into an Event Space and Marina. The city, along with the County, will work to create a public area that will elevate the quality of life in Ocean Springs. The total cost for this project is 13 million. We received GOMESA funding of 2.7 million for the first phase.
We were also awarded 500,000 dollars for the start of Riley Road Improvements and 1.5 million for various infrastructure and capital improvement projects. Thank you to Senator Jeremy England and Rep. Hank Zuber for slipping that in for us at the 11th hour.
After this legislative session, the city will be receiving 25 million dollars directly. If you include everything that is coming to the city including the money our partners were awarded, the legislature has awarded Ocean Springs approximately 36 million dollars. I want to thank the Capital Group along with our coast delegation for making this a reality.
As you can see your city officials have been very busy, and we are excited and eager to bring this to fruition.
Ocean Springs has so many opportunities to be creative in how we grow for our residents, visitors, and businesses. As I mentioned campaigning, we will maintain our small-town charm and heritage but also provide elevated amenities and quality of life in the city. Ocean Springs is truly the place to be.