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Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran touts city's growth in State of the City address

By Warren Kulo | Gulflive.com | January 17, 2013

Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran delivers her annual State of the City address Thursday night at the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Arts Center. Sign language expert Paula Browning is at left, signing Moran's comments for the hearing-impaired. Warren Kulo/Gulflive.com

OCEAN SPRINGS, Mississippi -- Mayor Connie Moran touted Ocean Springs growth, both in terms of municipal projects and private investment, while acknowledging current budget constraints in her annual State of the City address Thursday night.

Held at the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center, Moran's address lasted about 40 minutes and featured a Power Point presentation which highlighted a number of city projects, including the Ocean Springs Sports Complex, Public Safety Complex and the Halstead Road Tennis Complex, all of which opened during 2012.

She termed the Public Safety Complex as the city's "crowning glory" and noted the project was honored with the "Best Overall Project" in the state in 2012 by the Mississippi Municipal League.

"We really have a lot of which to be proud," Moran said. "I want to thank the board of aldermen and our staff for their dedication and teamwork. This board has really tackled some challenges in light of the weak national economy."

The mayor also noted the city's total budget is down 23 percent from two years ago, but described the general fund as "holding its own" and said the city is meeting its revenue projections thus far in fiscal 2012-13.

"The board has been able to make those cuts without the loss of city staff," she said. "We are working diligently to ensure the services we provide our residents are provided at the lowest cost without compromising quality."

Moran also noted other awards won by the city, including an award from the Mississippi Department of Archives & History for the city's conservation and preservation of the Walter Anderson murals which hang in the Ocean Springs Community Center, currently valued at $30 million, Moran said.

"They are our greatest cultural asset," she said. "It's amazing to think he painted those some 60 years ago for $1 -- and never cashed the check."

Moran said a key in keeping the city fiscally sound will be continued economic development, which she called "the preferred method" to fiscal well-being.

"As a former economic development professional, I'm going to work with the Chamber of Commerce and other economic development professionals to bring new business to Ocean Springs to help relieve the tax burden on our citizens," she said.

She also noted many are anticipating a rate increase from Mississippi Power ranging anywhere from 35 to 50 percent due to the new power plant being built in Kemper County -- a comment interesting if for no other reason than Mississippi Power was one of the sponsors of Moran's presentation.

At the conclusion of her presentation, Moran presented a "wish list" of sorts compiled by the aldermen. Balancing the budget, business development and infrastructure improvements were listed as the top priorities for the current board.

Moran also said there are a few projects in the works that are waiting for funds to come available to complete. Among those were the Porter Avenue sidewalk project and pedestrian crosswalks at the intersections of U.S. 90 with Washington Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

"We'll have to see how the budget shapes up in the next year or so," she said.