Biloxi Rotary Address


Mayor Holloway’s address to the Biloxi Rotary, Jan. 28, 1997, Mary Mahoney’s Old French House

Thank you for having me here today.

When Len James called the office last month, he’d asked us about coming to give a report on
hat’s been going on in the City. Frankly, we’re busier than ever, with major projects either getting started or being completed throughout the city. Change and challenge continue to be the key words. That’s what I’m going to be speaking about here today. We’re in the midst of change and we’re challenged to deal with that change so it will improve our quality of life and help enhance our growing reputation across the country. I want to stop here a minute and tell you something that occurred in Jackson the other day when I was walking the halls talking about roads here on the Coast. The Senate was taking up the issue of same-sex marriages. And one senator said to the other, “Now, Alice, you have to remember, when God created the Earth, he made Adam and Eve — not Adam and Steve.”

So you see, where here on the Coast are not the only ones dealing with change. Change is here — and we have to control it. Let me spend a few minutes on what we’re doing right now.

We’ve begun the initial phase of a major upgrade of our wastewater forced main serving the east end of town. This is one of those behind-the-scenes projects that you don’t hear much about, but something that’s
vital to our future growth. This particular forced main is a line that moves wastewater from businesses and residences on east Biloxi to the Keegan’s Bayou plant, where it is treated. We’re increasing the line from its present size of 10 inches to 20 inches. It’s a $2.5 million project that will put us in a great position to handle any development in the foreseeable future. And, of course, we’re making progress on a $10 million project to upgrade the Keegan’s Bayou plant. This project to double the capacity of the plant is right on schedule. It should be coming online before Imperial Palace, Beau Rivage and the new Grand hotel open.

On the other end of town, we’re very pleased with the drainage project at Sunkist. Our work is on schedule. It will be a tremendous improvement for the residents on Auburn, On the Green, Bilglade and neighboring areas. And, for you golfers, our project is also improving the water hazards on the golf course. If you golf like me, news of bigger water
hazards IS NOT good news. We’re also continuing the work to add water and sewer service to residents along Campbell, Goodman and Camp Four Jacks Roads, which is a growing area off Popp’s Ferry Road.

In Parks & Recreation, our programs are in full swing. You know, we have more than 600 kids currently involved in the city soccer program. At the same time, we have another 150 kids in our city pee-wee basketball leagues. We’ve greatly improved Pennzoil Park in West Biloxi and now have a lighted walking track there. This park is getting some good use — particularly at night — and I encourage you to see what we’ve done.

But we’re not stopping there in West Biloxi. We’ve purchased more property on Popp’s Ferry Road for our soccer complex. The land adjoins the current city complex and will allow us to add to our existing fields. We also bought three acres of land on Pass Road. We are working hard on plans for a new multi-purpose facility there. West Biloxi has been in need of a quality recreation facility for some time, and I’m happy to say one is on the way.

You know, I’m proud to say we’ve made quite an investment in recreation that people don’t think about until you
look at the overall picture. We refurbished the Natatorium, Point Cadet Plaza and Hiller Park, where we’re now expanding and improving the concession stand at the Coach Barbara Ferrill Softball Complex. We made Miramar Park totally handicapped accessible, we built a new two-story concession stand and meeting area at D’Anella Park in east Biloxi. We added a new concession stand at Volunteer Park in west Biloxi. And we’ve refenced ballfields throughout the city.

On that day in December when we had the big snowfall, we were installing 20 tons of air-conditioning at O’Hanlon recreation center on Point Cadet. And we had another crew on the same day putting together $19,000 worth of playground equipment over in Circle Park. Yes, we were adding air conditioning and playground equipment when it was snowing. Frankly, we were doing the work then so we’d have everything in place by summertime. Believe it or not, we CAN and do plan things.

Let me give you a few examples. In the past year or so, we’ve completely rebuilt Hopkins Boulevard, Oak Street from U.S. 90 to the railroad, Lilly Lane, Iberville Drive and Stelly Drive. We brought city water service to the people along Popp’s Ferry Road, and water and sewer service to those on North Country Club Lane. We lit Highway 90 from Debuys Road to the Coliseum and we built a new fire station at Back Bay.

Yea, those projects are just the tip of the iceberg of what we’ve been able to do. That stuff I just mentioned is about $7 million in work. And, frankly, I’m proud to say that most of those completed projects was brought in on time and
nearly all of them on budget. But there’s still work to be done — and it’s being done. In the next few weeks, we’ll begin working on more lighting on Highway 90. The Mississippi Department of Transportation is looking over our plans now.

We have purchased two parcels of property on Porter Avenue for our new Public Safety Complex, and we are hopeful that we can wrap up negotiations on the remaining two parcels shortly so we can break ground on this needed project. Our architects are working on the drawings of the facility now.

One of the projects I’m most proud of is what’s happening at the old hospital on Back Bay, where the state will open a new office complex later this year. This will be the first time in the history of this city that we have had so many state offices here in Biloxi — all under one roof. We nearly lost the project last year when it went before the state bonding board. The board had some problems with the project. I was able to work with the state and get the project back on track, and they issued $8 million in bonds to fund the construction. This building will house the Bureau of Marine Resources, the State Tax Commission, the Gaming Commission, the Highway Patrol and several small bureaus.

This project demonstrates cooperation. It demonstrates working together and economic development. This brings me to part 2 of my message today.

Right now, I want to focus on another important issue that is facing Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It’s an issue that is vital to our continued economic growth. And yes, it’s about working together and economic development.

I’m talking about roads. Major roads. North-south connector roads that will link Interstate 10 with Highway 90. East-west thoroughfares that will move people from one end of Biloxi to the other without delay.

When I leave this room I’m getting in my car and heading to Jackson, where dozens of community and business leaders from Biloxi and the Coast will join in meeting with our state legislators to make sure that we impress upon them that we need help and we need it now.

This community has always been the most progressive part of this state, a leader in many ways. To move to the next level — actually, to catch up with our growth — we MUST have major north-south and east-west arteries.

Now, you ask, which is more important, north-south or east-west? I’d like to see the state step up and give us some aid on the north-south. And in a minute I’m going to tell you part of a plan for east-west.

But the message of the moment is this: If the legislature does ANYTHING this session, it MUST approve AND fund a north-south corridor.

This is where you come in, too. This is the time for unity. We cannot embroil ourselves in a squabble over where the north-south will go. How many of you remember what happened with the I-110 overpass? Some people wanted it to be ground level, some people wanted it to be elevated with a loop. The end result: The project was delayed for 10 years and after that 10 years the state built it just the way they originally planned — elevated with a loop over the water. Sure we want input, but the final say is their job.

Our job is to make sure that we speak with a unified voice and make sure our case is heard and that our needs are met.

Frankly, I don’t see funding as a roadblock on this north-south issue.

Currently, the state is setting aside 2 percent of gaming revenue for road construction in gaming communities. In the last year, $33 million was set aside for this purpose. But the 2 percent set aside is set to expire in 2002. With new casinos coming on line, that money will be increasing, and the state needs to lift that cap, extend that set aside and sell bonds to raise money — now — to fund construction of our north-south corridor.

The state’s thinking was to do these improvements on a cash basis, and save money because you wouldn’t have to borrow and you would have no interest payments. But that’s impossible with projects this big. For the north-south connector we need, we’re talking at least $100 million. It would take several years to get that kind of cash, and by then you’d be facing higher construction costs. No, funding of this size must be through bonds. Also, the federal government has a transportation program, called ISTEA, that funds projects on a local level. We need to use that money, along with gaming tax revenue, to leverage other available funds.

Let me make this clear, too: We’re not asking the state for a handout. Biloxi is the golden goose as far as gaming revenue goes. We want to see re-investment in the Coast. I want to see re-investment in Biloxi.

And it’s up to me and you to make sure that that message is heard in Jackson. We HAVE to be together on this. Call your legislator. Write to Speaker Tim Ford, Senator Tommy Gollott, Rep. J.P. Compretta of Bay St. Louis, who is chairman of the Transportation Committee, and Charlie Williams, my friend who is chairman of the ways and means committee. The addresses are in front of you. Be diplomatic, be persuasive, but be heard.

Now, what are A.J. Holloway and the City Council doing to help out our road situation. I listed a number of road projects earlier. To put it in a nutshell, in the past three years, we’ve rebuilt or paved 50 miles of streets in this city. We’ve invested millions and millions of dollars in streets and drainage work. Some of it was merely catching up on years of neglect for lack of money.

But I’m also pushing a pro-active plan to the City Council. It’s a plan to widen Bayview Avenue from Oak Street all the way to Interstate 110 on Back Bay. Remember how I told you earlier that we can and DO plan things? That’s why we’ve rebuilt Oak Street from Highway 90 to the railroad crossing, and right now, we’re ready to begin a $1.3 million project to finish Oak Street from the railroad tracks to Bayview Avenue. I’ve already approached the Council about getting the Bayview project underway.

We can use Oak Street momentum to design a new Bayview Avenue, which would not
REPLACE businesses. It would REVIVE them. And we could straighten out those 90-degree turns on Bayview. THIS IS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.

This would open up Back Bay, which is already correctly zoned, for gaming and other commercial ventures. But more importantly, it would create a loop from the Ocean Springs bridge to I-110 — taking some traffic off of congested Highway 90 — and, really, give us another East-West corridor.

Funding will not be a hurdle here, either. I already have a commitment from the state Department of Economic Development for a $3.8 million grant on this project, and there’s money from the Harrison County road and bridge fund and some funds from CDBG money. Also, we would have access impact fees on any casino that opened on Bayview, much like Boomtown and Imperial Palace paid for improvements on the western end of Bayview.

Imagine that: We have $3.8 million from the state, $200,000 to $400,000 from CDBG, $200,000 to $400,000 from the county — as much as three-quarters of the project possibly already funded.

We can start working on this now. We must because when Beau Rivage, Imperial Palace and the new Grand Hotel and Convention Center come online, we’re going to really see some traffic. I want to stop here and take some questions.