Lt. Governor Tate Reeves hosted a Town Hall meeting in Diamondhead today at the City Hall. More than 100 citizens, including state and local officials, attended the meeting to provide input to Reeves and Coast Legislators on how the Legislature should allocate BP settlement funds from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
The state is set to receive $750 million over 15 years from the settlement to offset economic losses from the spill. Reeves said he supports spending the majority of the funds in South Mississippi and invited citizens to provide specific project ideas that benefit the Mississippi Coast and coastal communities. He recommended that the Coast focus on economic development projects that are unique to the coast.
Some of the projects that were introduced include:
Establishing a perpetual trust fund to provide financial assistance to local governments, educational and research institutions, public-private partnerships and local entities;
Establishing a campus of Pearl River Community College to support workforce training and higher education;
Establishing programs to retain and expand small businesses across the Coast;
Funding Tourism Marketing and more events like Cruisin the Coast;
Building walking trails to promote healthy living;
Funding transportation projects to build and repair roads and bridges;
Funding a project to provide access to two Class 1 railroads, improving rail service, reliability and competitiveness for existing industries to increase manufacturing employment growth;
Identify and fund mitigation projects;
Dredging of waterways;
Establishing sound evacuation routes that will support economic growth;
Develop and fund youth development and job training programs;
Supporting the National Diabetes and Obesity Research Center;
Supporting a restoration economy; and,
Marine Toxicology Lab.
Tish Williams, Executive Director of the Hancock Chamber of Commerce presented proposals that were part of the Go Coast 2020 Small Business Committee. Williams was a member of the committee that is now chaired by Mayor Billy Hewes. These project ideas include restoration projects to improve downtown districts; utilizing the Chambers of Commerce across the Coast as Business Resource Centers to provide technical assistance training, education and marketing assistance and grants to small businesses; and, establishing wayfinding signage and rest areas to improve access to visitor resources across the Coast.
The meeting in Diamondhead is one of three being held across the Coast to gain citizen input. The next meeting is on November 30th at 2pm at the Fine Arts Auditorium of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Gautier campus. If you were unable to attend the meeting and would like to provide input, you can send an email to: email@example.com.