HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Citizens’ pennies have been at work in the city of Hattiesburg for two years.
In April of 2019, voters approved a 1% sales tax on hotel, motel and restaurant payments by an overwhelming margin of 81%. Since then, the initiative has generated a total of $2,342,447.63. More than $2 million has been spent on parks and recreation projects.
Mayor Toby Barker says the tax and associated projects are all things residents expressed a need and want for.
“We’ve had 50 town hall meetings across the city over the course of four years and asking them, ‘What are the things you want to see in your neighborhood?’ And these projects that we’re working on came from those conversations, and I think that’s why you saw it pass with such a strong margin,” Barker said.
So far, the city has completed seven projects involving upgrades and new construction:
- Thames Elementary Gymnasium upgrades
- 9th Street Ball Park drainage and lighting improvements
- East 8th Street Sports Courts construction
- Lighting on Gordon Creek/Jaycee Park Trail
- Vernon Dahmer Park Batting Cages
- Tatum Park Tennis Complex Improvements
- Duncan Lake Trail Extension
There are currently two projects underway. The Dewitt Sullivan Park Splash Pad is expected to open this month. The Kamper Park playground repair is expected to finish up in September of this year.
Barker says he’s seen a positive reception to the projects so far.
“I think we’ve really seen the benefit of having a constant revenue stream to invest in parks, and as you hear at council meetings, as you hear at town hall meetings, people want good green spaces,” Barker said. “That’s part of our quality of life. That’s part of giving our youth something to do to keep them out of trouble, but also building an affinity for neighborhoods.”
Two projects are already slated to begin this year. The Tatum Soccer Complex should see lighting improvements by the end of this year. A Friendship Park improvement project is currently in the design phase.
And if you have an idea for your neighborhood, it’s not too late to have it added as a future project.
“We encourage folks to reach out to reach out to us on social media, to reach out to us through our website, and chances are once we get through COVID, we’re going to be having town halls in every neighborhood,” Barker said.
To see a full breakdown of revenue by month and the cost of each project, you can read the city’s report below: