Biloxi local government defending shopping with BP oil spill grants

BILOXI -- Local government leaders are defending what has been called a shopping spree with millions of dollars of emergency grants from BP, saying they were uncertain what they needed for the unprecedented disaster and didn’t want to be caught ill-equipped.

According to a database of spending compiled by the Associated Press, they bought fleets of expensive SUVs and trucks, boats, personal watercraft, all-terrain vehicles -- even kayaks and a motor home -- and bedecked them with gadgets of every description. They paid government workers overtime and special compensation and hired scores of consultants. All this despite Mississippi’s shoreline being mostly spared the feared deluge of oil.

Much of the equipment would have been needed if large amounts of oil had washed in, local leaders said, and it is being put to use in day-to-day government operations. Some governments, such as Bay St. Louis, Moss Point and Waveland, appeared to be frugal with BP’s money. But some of the governments’ purchases appear to have little direct correlation to the oil disaster and frugality appears not to have been a top consideration.

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