2023 State of the City
It’s a great day to be in the City of Ocean Springs. Thank you for joining us tonight. I am eager to update you on city projects and share with you the upcoming vision for the city. We've been busy and we’re about to get even busier.
Thank you to those who have made this night possible. The Lady May, Maisano’s Fine Wine and Spirit, Hilltree Marketing, Ocean Springs High School JROTC, Paige Roberts, Tee McCovey, and, of course, our great staff at The Mary C.
I would like to take a moment to recognize the Board of Aldermen. 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.
I also want to say thank you to those who serve on our many boards and commissions. Thank you to those who volunteer on the Planning Commission, Historic Preservation Commission, Zoning and Adjustment Board, and Civil Service Commission.
I often express how fortunate I am to be surrounded by great employees. My goal is never to be the smartest person in the room and but to engage with those who know best in their areas. Our departments work well 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 you:
- 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 Recreation Director Stephen Glorioso
- Building Official Darrell Stringfellow
- Municipal Judge Monte Tynes
- Project Manager Sarah Harris
- Arts and Cultural Coordinator Sarah Qarqish
- And Administration and Community Relations Coordinator Ravin Nettles
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, 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
- Rep. Charles Busby - District 111.
- Rep. Jeff Guice - District
These leaders always advocate for our city and we appreciate them.
I want to recognize Chris Vignes from Senator Roger Wicker’s office. He is unable to be here but is always a great partner to Ocean Springs.
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, Gulf Coast Research Lab, Gulf Islands National Seashore, United Way of Jackson, George, and Greene Counties, the YMCA, and so many more. Thank you for what you do for Ocean Springs.
Ocean Springs is on track for enormous growth. (PAUSE)
We are in a transition period to make smart decisions to have a smart vision. Vision that will outlast us all. Vision that encompasses the bigger picture.
We are more engaged 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 1.5 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.
Front Beach Event Center and Marina
Located on the old Fayard Seafood Factory site at the foot of Jackson Avenue, this phased $19 million project will be the home of the Front Beach Event Space and Marina. We will create a public event space and marina. The property was purchased jointly by the city and Jackson County. This project was awarded to Cypress Environmental. Design work is supported by GOMESA funds.
Comprehensive Plan; Urban Renewal Zone; Redevelopment Authority
As our city grows, we have identified the need to revisit our extensive comprehensive plan and to create an urban renewal map. The urban renewal map will identify areas in our city that are considered blighted. Our newly formed Redevelopment Authority will work as an independent extension of the city with the goal of redeveloping these selected areas.
The RDA commissioners Mary Martha Henson, Greg Cronin, Shane Loper, Dr. Thomas Coulter, and Robert Ridgway are ready to go to work to make smart decisions for our city’s development.
Ocean Springs School District
Our school district is absolutely one of the best in our area. Continuing to strive for excellence in Academics, Arts, and Athletics is why so many people relocate to our area. We are a strong community. A strong city because of our high-rated school district. I can see exemplary leadership through our Mayor’s Youth Council. I continue to be impressed by their goals and servant leadership. Great job on your State of the Youth project and address. (pause) These are intelligent young men and women whom we want to thrive in the world and come back to live in Ocean Springs.
It is important that our children have great leaders to guide them during their education. Whether it is our superintendent, board of trustees, teachers, coaches, and mentors. We are shaping our future. We should not take lightly those whom we appoint and hire into these roles.
Ocean Springs Hospital
Ocean Springs is very fortunate to have Ocean Springs Hospital as a pillar in our community. CEO Tiffany Murdock continues to state that the health system is strong, and its growth is encouraging for our medical community. We want to be the place that the hospital leadership uses to attract the top doctors and nurses.
Infrastructure repairs remain to be a top priority. 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. Revised plans have been submitted to MDOT. Advertise for Construction Summer 2023
- Government Street Sidewalk phase II which is anticipated to start in the fall of 2023
- Front Beach sidewalk repair and replacement phase 2 has been awarded to Jay Bearden Construction. It is anticipated to start this spring.
- On East Beach we plan to start a multi-use walkway on the south side of the seawall from Halstead to Weeks Bayou. This project will be closely coordinated with Jackson County’s project to create a similar pathway from Holcomb Blvd west to Weeks Bayou.
- Washington Avenue at Front Beach Improvements is focused on lifting the southern end of Washington Avenue to improve drainage and increase safety. When we experience a high tide, the end of that road floods immensely. This project has been approved Tideland’s funding.
- The Porter Avenue Intersection project was designed to evaluate the intersection of Porter Avenue and the off-ramp from Highway 90. This project was coordinated with the ongoing downtown traffic and parking study and the private planning effort by HOSA and the Porter Avenue businesses.
- Gay Lemon Park Improvements will be a major comprehensive improvement plan by replacing the former concessions building with an open-air pavilion, renovating restrooms, replacing dugouts, adding the batting cages, additional lighting and parking lot improvements.
The decisions we make today will affect the city for years to come. In 10-15 years, I want future residents, future business owners, and the future leadership of this city to say that we made smart decisions about the growth of this city. That this administration had the vision to look at the bigger picture.
Our city offers an extremely high quality of life, a full spectrum of city services, a wonderful school system, and an elite hospital system. Multiple residential neighborhoods and businesses have developed on the edge of the city’s current boundaries. Many of these areas use the Ocean Springs name without being within the city limits.
The City is seeking to annex two areas that are in the city’s most prominent paths of growth. Our current annexation is the culmination of over a decade of planning and consideration of potential future growth areas by the City.
Proposed Annexation Area 1 is to the north of the existing City and is located to the west of Highway 57. This area is consistent with an agreement between the City of Ocean Springs, the City of Gautier, and the Jackson County Board of Supervisors dating back to the early 1990’s which established that Highway 57 extending north to Interstate 10 was a reasonable boundary for annexation by the City of Ocean Springs. Now, 25 years and much growth later, Ocean Springs is annexing this previously agreed annexation area.
Proposed Annexation Area 2 is situated to the south of the existing City of Ocean Springs and includes an adjacent commercial growth area, the Ocean Springs Airport, the Ocean Springs High School, and multiple neighborhoods that need city services. In fact, several of these neighborhoods have developed in the last couple of years during which Ocean Springs was studying and planning this annexation.
Not only does Ocean Springs have a need to expand into these obvious paths of growth, but the City is making a commitment to provide the full spectrum of municipal services which are needed in these growing areas.
Those services include 24-hour-a-day, 7 days-a-week, Class 4 fire protection from a full-time, paid fire department; municipal police protection; the high quality of life afforded by Ocean Springs planning, zoning, building permitting, code enforcement, and parks and recreational opportunities; and high-level public works, water, and sewer utilities. The City of Ocean Springs stands ready, willing, and financially able to provide these needed services to residents and property owners in the annexation area.
We respect the residents who live in these areas. Our intent is not to disrupt the use of your property but to enhance these areas with Ocean Springs’s quality of life and Ocean Springs services. When asked where do you live…many of these residents reply with the simple answer…”in Ocean Springs”
Ocean Springs is truly headed in a positive direction. I frequent Jackson to advocate for our city's needs and improvements. As I travel, people love our small town. 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.
MDOT plans to widen Bienville Blvd from Highway 609 in Ocean Springs to Dolphin Drive in Gautier. This $60 million project will allow traffic to flow a lot more quickly than it does now. It’s just one more step in progress for Ocean Springs.
We have businesses investing major dollars in our city.
• The Collective located in the Porter Avenue Redevelopment District is currently underway with 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.
After this legislative session, the city will be receiving 12 million dollars directly. If you include everything that is coming to the city and community of Ocean Springs from the legislature it will total $18 million.
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. This is the time to shape our future and truly make Ocean Springs the place to be.