Breakfast talk: Budget, development, progress and more

Here is the prepared text of Mayor A.J. Holloway’s presentation for the Biloxi Chamber “Breakfast with the Mayor,” on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010, at the Innovation Center on Popp’s Ferry Road.

As you know, we’re continuing budget negotiations with the City Council. Many of you who I run into on the street tell me that you’re concerned, too.

Most of us know what needs to be done. We need to bring expenditures in line with revenue. Right now, we have a gap of almost 7 million dollars. We’ll continue to try to hammer that message home.

We’ve also done a few other things to bring our expenses and revenue into balance.

For the first time in 20 years, we have adjusted our permit fees to cover the cost of advertising and processing the zoning cases.

We’ve brought back our fees for youth leagues. We were one of the only cities that I am aware of that had free youth leagues. We had to roll some of that back.

Another area is the water and sewer fund. For years we have subsidized that fund with gaming revenue. This fund is supposed to be self-reliant.

Another thing that is coming into play is the debt service payments to the Harrison County Utility Authority. We’re not raising the fees that the city charges you for water and sewer, but we’re having to pass along debt service payments.

The average customer in Biloxi uses 8,000 gallons of water a month, and those who use 8,000 gallons a month will see their bill go up by 21 dollars a month.

We’re also going to be increasing the garbage fee from $7.50 to $10 a month.

Now, having said all of that let me say this: We will still have some of the lowest garbage and water bills you’ll find. Check with your friends in neighboring cities and see what they pay.

I know that’s not what you want to hear, but it’s the truth.

Now, what else do we have going on in Biloxi?

We have 230 million dollars in development either under construction or permitted throughout the city.

Let me give you the top 5, which account for about half of the 230 million:

—The Palace Casino addition at 45 million dollars

—Timber Creek Estates, 30 million

—The Kroc Center at Yankie Stadium at 16 million

—Bay Cove Condominiums, 14 million

—Hilton Garden Inn at Rodenberg and 90, 12 million

That hotel project is just one of five that are in the works in Biloxi. You may have heard about plans for a hotel at the Porter and 90, west of the Visitors Center. There’s also planned at Bellman and 90, west of the Redeemer site.

And there are two that you can see right now: the RW hotel on west beach, which opens on Oct. 1, and one that opened this summer, the Four Points by Sheraton at the old Gulf Towers site.

Kenny Glavan and the staff have done a great job in turning this piece of property into something we can all be proud of.

We continue to make great progress on the restoration of our historic properties and other city facilities.

The Old Brick House on Back Bay is scheduled to be completed in October, which is months ahead of its March deadline.

The FEMA portion of the Magnolia Hotel is complete, and over the next six months we’ll be working on design of the Mardi Gras exhibits that will go into this hotel. Look for the Mardi Gras Museum to open for Summer 2011.

We’re at the halfway point on the Visitors Center and the downtown library and civic center. Look for them to be complete in April, which is about seven months from now.

You can see the tile roof going up now at the Visitors Center, and we’re working on the exhibits that will be going inside. This is going to be someplace that you will want to bring visitors when they come to town. This will really tell our story.

And let me say this about the civic center on Howard Avenue. You’ve seen the Biloxi Community Center. You’ve seen the Donald Snyder Community Center. This is not going to be like either one of those. This civic center is going be much larger, and it will have the feel of a ballroom that you would find at the Beau Rivage or IP or one of our other casino resorts.

We’ve wrapped up work on the Port Division administration building, and work is wrapping up on the Purple Heart and USS Biloxi memorials.

As you know, we were successful in the annexation case with D’Iberville and we protected our natural path of growth. We are now engaged in another annexation case on our northwestern boundary.

The City of Gulfport has filed an annexation case that would come across our northwestern boundary. We cannot let that happen.

We think the court looked at the facts and made a sound ruling in the D’Iberville case, and we feel that the same will happen in the Gulfport case.

We didn’t go looking for these cases, but we cannot sit by idly and let Biloxi be boxed in.

Finally, I want to congratulate the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce on a great Seafood Festival this past weekend. It was a hot weekend, but huge crowds turned out both days.

Y’all did a great job.

The Biloxi Seafood Festival offers a true taste of Biloxi — from the great seafood dishes, to the arts and crafts, the comaraderie. It was just a great event and I look forward to the 30th annual next year.