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Gulfport meeting unleashes flood of ideas for BP money

Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has held the first of three town hall meetings to talk about how to spend $750 million in Deepwater Horizon oil disaster money.

Local media outlets report Reeves got his first answers Thursday in Gulfport when a couple hundred people showed up.

Some people made specific requests — money for the Great Southern Golf Club in Gulfport and Hiller Park in Biloxi. Some requests were broad — clean the water in the Mississippi Sound or fix the infrastructure.

One thing that garnered general agreement was the desire that most of the money should be spent in the three Coast counties.

Reeves would not commit to a certain split of the money between the Coast and the rest of the state. That, he said, would make it harder to negotiate in Jackson.

“I’m in a position where if I say the number 50, or I say the number 60, or I say the number 70, or I say the number 80, or I say the number 90, well that becomes the top end of where negotiations begin,” Reeves said at the Lyman Community Center. “And so, my number tonight is 100 percent of the money.”

Former Biloxi Mayor Gerald Blessey is proposing the Mississippi Gulf Coast Economic Restoration Trust Fund to promote regional economic development fueled from 80 percent of the BP settlement.

“The idea here would be to reinvest in the economic engine that got damaged that caused the loss to begin with,” Blessey said. “That’s the coast economy in all of its forms.”

Ralph Humphries suggested $100,000 a year for a couple of years to replace money the coastal cities had been giving the Gulf Coast Fishing Banks, which helps the state Department of Marine Resources deploy and maintain fishing reefs.

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