Voters turned out Tuesday to overwhelmingly approve the continuation of Mississippi Power’s franchise agreement with the City of Hattiesburg that allows the city to continue to collect 3 percent of the gross revenues of the electric company’s residential, commercial and industrial accounts in the city.
The final vote, including absentee ballots, was 1,302 to 59 – approximately 96 percent of the vote – in favor of the measure, which must be voted on every 25 years and brings approximately $2.5 million per year to the city.
“No one would argue that 2020 has dealt some significant challenges to our city, and just some awful moments for some residents of our city at certain points,” Mayor Toby Barker said. “But 2020 has not diminished the Hattiesburg spirit that we have, which is to go after big things and get them. Such was illustrated tonight.”
In comparison to other cities in the state, Hattiesburg had an impressive turnout for the election, with Meridian bringing in approximately 440 votes, Gulfport 900 votes and Biloxi 370 votes. Had the measure not passed, the city would have reverted back to what is known as the Mississippi Public Utilities Act, which only generates 2 percent revenue, based off only the residential and commercial electric sales, rather than the inclusion of industrial sales.
“That shows the degree of how much our city cares about what’s going on, going forward,” Barker said. “They knew how important renewing this 3 percent franchise fee was, because the difference between 3 percent on residential, commercial and industrial accounts and 2 percent on residential and commercial accounts is $1.2 to $1.4 million per year.
“And that funding will continue over the next 25 years, and of course that’s a growing revenue stream as we continue to see our city develop commercially. We’re already the second-largest sales tax producer in the state now; that pie is going to grow, and so this is a big step for us.”
The funds from the franchise agreement are used for measures such as paving streets and paying police officers, firefighters and other personnel.
"I want to thank the people that came out to vote today in spite of the weather,” Barker said. “They came in force, they cared about this issue, and they knew how important it was to our city’s budget.
“They knew how close we are to continuing our city’s financial recovery. Today was a great day for the City of Hattiesburg, and because of those people that showed up, tomorrow’s going to be an even better one.”
Barker also thanked City Clerk Kermas Eaton, along with his staff - Cecilia Jones, Hazel Young and Anna Fowler - as well as the city's election commissioners.