State says Bay marina a ‘done deal,’ but Bay City Council says ‘no it isn’t’

The Mississippi Development Authority has told a concerned Bay St. Louis resident that while her worries over building a $15.6 million, city-owned million marina are important, the project is a fait accompli, so far as the state is concerned.

Jon Mabry, CEO of the state agency’s Disaster Recovery Division, also told local resident Camille Tate that costs of upkeep and operation on the 162-slip marina are a local problem, and not the state’s concern.

MDA is the funneling agency for federal funds that will be used to build the marina. In May, the City of Bay St. Louis asked MDA to release funds for the project, which has been favored by many Bay business interests but questioned by some other residents.

Tate, a retired teacher and Realtor, had written to the state expressing her concern over the way the proposal has been handled. She and others have also questioned the city’s ability to pay insurance, operating overhead and other costs once the facility is built. As planned, it will be constructed on the bay front just south of the CSX Railroad bridge.

In his June 7 reply to her letter, Mabry said the city “has held the required public hearing regarding the project. Subsequently, the Bay St. Louis Council has approve the marina proposal’s application for submission, which, from our perspective, is tantamount to the municipality’s affirmation for the project as envisioned.”

Mabry also wrote: “The debate about the issues you raise and the long-term upkeep of the project appropriately are local issues that must be resolved locally.”

However, Bay St. Louis City Council members have repeatedly insisted they have never given any formal approval for the waterfront improvements project, and are still waiting for a formal business plan to be performed, evaluating chances of success for a marina.

Marina critics have questioned how much money the endeavor could generate.

In addition, Tate said, a single public hearing that occurred in connection with the marina was held not by the city, but by the state Department of Marine Resources as part of the permitting process. Although citizens were allowed to speak for or against the project, questions from the public were not allowed during the hearing.

Tate said the City Council’s involvement was primarily to approve submitting an application for funding. As for Mabry’s claim that the council has given overall approval or held a public hearing, “somebody’s wrong,” she said.
“The city has never said, ‘okay, we’re going to have a conversation about this,'” Tate said.

City Councilmen Joey Boudin and Bill Taylor agreed the council neither held a public hearing nor given blanker approval for the project. “There were things he said in that letter that were wrong,” Taylor said.

Boudin, who has watched the marina issue closely, also said Mabry’s letter was inaccurate. “I think they’ve been grossly informed by somebody,” he said, adding that the BP Deepwater Horizon oil crisis throws other shadows across the issue.

“We don’t even know what effect the oil spill is going to have on this area,” Boudin said. “We’ve got a lot of variables here.”

BY: J.R. Welsh

The Sea Coast Echo

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