August 5, 2008

Beach Control Under Review

By Melissa M. Scallan, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

Aug. 5--GULFPORT -- Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann plans to be more involved in the beach and how it's used, he told the Harrison County Board of Supervisors on Monday.

In the past, supervisors informed the Secretary of State's Office of their plans for the beach. But Hosemann said Monday there needs to be a written agreement outlining exactly what each group's responsibilities are.

"I spend about 25 percent of my time on the Coast," he told supervisors. "We find ourselves intimately involved with everything from the Port of Gulfport to casino development."

Hosemann was invited by the board to discuss the county's sand beach master plan. Supervisor Connie Rockco and Sand Beach Director Bobby Weaver outlined some of the ideas for the beach from various groups, including the public, government officials and casino managers.

Hosemann said he liked the idea of a bike path from one end of Harrison County to the other, but he didn't agree with parking on the north part of the beach. He said someone from his office will meet with Weaver and go through each page of the plan and present Hosemann's ideas.

But the secretary of state said he believes every resident in Mississippi has a stake in the beach plan.

"Our role as secretary of state is to protect the public access to the sand beach and make sure what's built here is sustainable and reflects the culture of the Coast," Hosemann said. "We have a unique and evolving relationship with the Board of Supervisors and the Sand Beach Authority.

"I think it's time to get started, and I think we need to work closely with each other and be involved from day one and be involved as much as you need us to be."

Supervisors thanked Hosemann for his input but said they were concerned about what authority they have over the beach, as well as funding.

"I don't have a problem with 3 million stakeholders," Supervisor Kim Savant said. "As long as the other 2.7 million pay their share."

Hosemann didn't promise more state funding but he did say he wouldn't make any decisions regarding the beach without talking to supervisors and he hoped they will do the same.

"I think the way we develop this beach will be the gift we leave our grandchildren."


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