Hub City commission delivers good news

Hub City commission delivers good news
Rick Taylor, Executive Director for the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, hit some the year’s highlights and issues during the Hattiesburg City Council’s Monday evening work session. (Source: WDAM)

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg Convention Commission came out of Fiscal Year 2018 on solid footing.

Earned income at the Saenger Theater was up 37 percent over the previous year, ahead 11 percent at the Hattiesburg Zoo.

All told, the commission’s annual revenue came out ahead of expenditures by about $870,000.

“The good news is we were able to live within our means,” said Rick Taylor, Executive Director for the Hattiesburg Convention Commission.

Taylor hit some the year’s highlights and issues during the Hattiesburg City Council’s Monday evening work session. The council is expected to vote Tuesday to acknowledge receipt of the commission’s 2018 annual report.

The commission has administrative and managerial oversight at the zoo, Saenger Theater, Lake Terrace Convention Center, Eureka School Museum, African American Military History Museum/USO Club Museum and Osceola McCarty House Museum.

The past fiscal year had its hiccups as well. A dip in food and drink sales dented the convention center’s profits. Inefficient heating units sent utility costs soaring at the zoo in February 2018. The Saenger, while bringing in more money, still finished $40,000 in the red.

Taylor said that making the Saenger profitable is one of the goals for fiscal year 2019. Also on the project list: Continue collection of objects for display at Eureka School; complete process for accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums; addition of another Safari Grill stand at the zoo.

Also, Taylor said the commission had just awarded a bid for the clearance/construction of land in the zoo’s northwest quadrant that will serve as an exhibit area for giraffes.

Taylor said the construction contract would run for 365 days, so that the facility would be completed in about a year’s time.

The council also:

  • Held a public hearing regarding a request that city issue bonds to support up to $600,000 in tax increment financing for a proposed $7.8 million, four-story, 79-room hotel at the intersection of 40th Avenue and Lundy Street.

No one other than the developer spoke, and the council is expected to vote on the TIF Tuesday

  • At the behest of Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado, heard a presentation from the Jackson branch of the American Civil Liberties Union about “decriminalizing” possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana in Hattiesburg.

While possession would remain illegal and a fine would be levied, no jail time would be imposed under such an “decriminalization” ordinance.

After brief comments from Ward 4 Councilwoman Mary Dryden and City Attorney Randy Pope and the council’s thanks for the presentation, no action was taken

  • Will vote Tuesday whether to accept a $1.9 million bid on Phase XII of the city’s comprehensive sewer improvement project (ComSWIP). The latest phase would impact Springhill, Meadow Brook, Pecan Grove, Rhodes, Oak Forest and J. Ed Turner drives
  • Apply for a survey-only “historic grant” from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for the Arledge subdivision and neighborhood bounded by Katie-John-Dabbs.

A primarily African-American residential district, the area never has been surveyed from a historic preservation perspective. Several of the buildings are believed to have ties to prominent African-American citizens of Hattiesburg and the Civil Rights era.

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