Meetings of the Bay St. Louis Harbor Committee that have been held in closed sessions for months will now occur on a regular basis and be opened to the public, officials decided this week.
The first open meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday at the Bay St. Louis City Council Chambers and Conference Center, 598 Main St.
The Harbor Committee was formed more than two years ago to promote and plan a multi-million dollar, federally funded project that includes waterfront improvements and a municipal marina at the foot of Main Street. The City Council recently voted to approve several administration actions that will move the project forward.
Although nearly $18 million in federal funding has been worked out, numerous meetings held, and permits applied for and issued, meetings of the five-member committee have never been publicly advertised. Harbor Committee members have included Chet LeBlanc, Jeremy Compretta, Lee Seal, George Williams, and Jim Wyly. The committee has been steered by City Hall official Buz Olsen.
At a Monday night workshop, members of the city council said things should change. Subsequently, a decision was made to hold monthly Harbor Committee meetings, open them to the public, and advertise the meetings in advance.
Councilman Joey Boudin has already called for opening the meetings, and was joined Monday by Councilman Doug Seal. Some previous committee meetings that had been unannounced were sporadic and technical in nature, Seal said Tuesday.
“I understand the initial process. But now we’re getting to a more finite process. We need to be more cognizant of the need to notify the public,” he said.
Councilman Bill Taylor agreed Tuesday that Harbor Committee meetings should be open to the public, even if they are technical or dull. But he also said he thinks occasional routine meetings between commission members and project contractors, such as engineers, may not have to be announced.
However, the public should be welcomed at regular full Harbor Committee meetings, Taylor said.
“I don’t think there was any wrong intent” in not opening commission meetings in the past, he said. “But they should have had regular meetings and advertised them. I think they should be open.”
By J.R. Welsh
The Sea Coast Echo