Analysis: Ocean Springs Group’s complaints about unequal park funding largely unfounded

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OCEAN SPRINGS, Mississippi – Earlier this month, a group of residents complained to the Aldermen of Ocean Springs that other city-owned parks were receiving a greater share of attention and funding than the park Martin Luther King Jr. near downtown.

Greg Gipson, who led an unsuccessful campaign for Ward 1 alderman earlier this year, addressed the board on behalf of a group calling themselves “Community Cares.” Gipson told aldermen that the group does not believe Martin Luther King Jr. Park receives equal funding to other city-owned parks, which he says appear to have priority over MLK Park.

“It seems like we have to fight whenever something is needed at MLK Park,” Gipson said.

It appears, however, that the complaints are largely unfounded, as the numbers tell a different story. Through a public registration request, Mississippi Press obtained the capital expenditure figures from the city’s parks and recreation department for the last three fiscal years – 2018-19; 2019-20; 2020-21. (Note: municipal exercises start every October 1).

During those three fiscal years, the city spent nearly $ 70,000 on MLK Jr. Park, which ranks the facility third behind Freedom Field and the Ocean Springs Sports Complex. In fact, MLK Jr. Park is the only neighborhood park in the city to have its own line for capital spending in the city budget.

In 2018-19, the City spent $ 2,600 on park capital improvements, but initially budgeted $ 110,000 to build full coverage on the basketball court. The locals, however, rejected the idea.

“We thought it was a good idea to put the lid on to protect the kids from the elements,” Alderman Rob Blackman recalled, “but for some reason we had residents who objected. , so we canceled it. “

The following fiscal year, the City spent $ 56,811.39 on MLK Jr. Park, a figure that represented 28% of all capital spending for City parks that year. Last year, the City spent an additional $ 10,063.27 on the park, mainly to resurface the basketball court and demolish the reconstructed public restrooms, which took place last June. This represented 50% of the total park construction costs that year.

Here’s how the various municipal park facilities rank in capital spending over the past three years:

  1. Freedom Field – $ 244,924.16 (new runway lighting and resurfacing in 2018-19)
  2. Sports complex – $ 137,137.67
  3. Martin Luther King Jr. Park – $ 69,474.66
  4. Clay Boyd Park – $ 68,118.42
  5. Ryan Youth Center – $ 16,640.87
  6. Halstead Tennis Complex – $ 15,489.20
  7. Taconi Gymnasium – $ 3,478.50

It should be noted that of the seven facilities listed above, MLK Jr. Park is the only one that does not house any of the city’s recreational sports programs, such as youth basketball, baseball, softball, etc. .

This is strictly a neighborhood park, which Blackman says is primarily used by the adjacent Macedonian Baptist Church.

“It’s open to the public, of course, but it’s by far primarily used by the church,” he said.

Blackman also acknowledged that MLK Jr. Park has received more City funding in recent years than any other neighborhood park. Parks at Trentwood, Fort. Bayou Estates and Parktown East have not recorded any capital expenditures in recent years, with money only budgeted for standard maintenance.

LeMoyne Park in the Parktown subdivision, in fact, is badly in need of the city’s attention, Blackman said.

“I passed this the other day and LeMoyne Park in Parktown is badly overlooked,” he said. “I called the park manager and told him we had to pay attention to it quickly. “

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