Hattiesburg hoping for major improvements without raising taxes

Hattiesburg hoping for major improvements without raising taxes

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The city of Hattiesburg is hoping for a better future for its residents, without raising taxes.

Jessica Bowman talked to residents in the city and local leaders about the beginning stages of new improvements that may come to fruition in the future with a possible $45 million bond.

One issue on the table is possible infrastructure improvements to alleviate wait times at railroad crossings in the city.

“It’s time for us to come up with a solution to the train issue," Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker said. "We are looking to see what we can do without raising taxes.”

Some Hattiesburg residents expressed frustration with wait times as trains are crossing.

“I wish they would do something about it," Myesha Bolton said. “I have to be at work at 6:30 every morning and the train is always stopped and has me late going to work.”

Barker said that the city is evaluating solutions to the problem.

“Overpasses, underpasses, those are all on the table at this point," Barker said. "If we are going to move on that, now would be the time do it when you are eligible to take out a certain amount of bonds with no tax increase for our residents.”

Another layer within the $45 million bond proposal is a new public safety complex that will house the Hattiesburg Police Department and the municipal court staff. That complex will be built on James Street, where parts of the historic Methodist hospital will be re-used.

“Folks need to know this is going to be a facility that will last us at least half a century, that’s what we are going for here," Barker said. "We want this to be a facility that is practical, but also can be a recruiting tool for officers in the future.”

Currently, the city does not have a bond rating. Barker is hoping the city is approved for a rating in the coming months after the final 2017 audit is complete.

The Hattiesburg City Council is expected to pass a resolution at the November 6 council meeting to move the process forward.

“The mayor and the council have been talking about these big game-changing projects for some time," Council President Carter Carroll said. "We have also heard from our constituents at the town hall meetings. Based upon our bond consultants advice, the council decided to go ahead and move on the intent so we can go ahead and get this process started.”

Barker said regarding the public safety complex, if the process moves smoothly, you may be seeing the ground breaking as early as March or April 2019. This specific project will cost around $27 million.

Copyright 2018 WDAM. All rights reserved.