City creates perpetual fund from BP money

The Biloxi City Council on Tuesday created a new economic development fund that could help pay for facility improvements, create new businesses or expand existing businesses, without cost to the taxpayers.

The fund would use the $4.1 million BP settlement to create a perpetual account that would have a variety of uses and is expected to grow over time.

“What we’re doing,” said Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, “is creating an opportunity for the city to borrow from itself, to avoid interest payments, to be able to match any state or federal grants that become available, and we’d do it while growing the $4.1 million. We want to see a fund that keeps giving and creating opportunity.”

As an example, Gilich said, the city could use money from the fund for harbor expansion or to create a business incubator and repay the fund from rent or slip fees.

“The other great thing about this fund is that it is available to help strengthen the city’s cash position,” the mayor said. “We always have a healthy ending fund balance because the fund will either be cash or receivables from the economic development projects we fund.”

Said Councilmember Dixie Newman: “The fund would always be $4.1 million, but over time it could grow to $10 million or $20 million, depending on the scope of the projects we fund.”

Biloxi City Attorney Gerald Blessey, speaking to a “Katrina +10” audience last week, suggested the state should create a similar fund.

Said Blessey: “This BP money is a great opportunity for the state to use its $750 million to create a similar perpetual fund here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where it would improve the areas most impacted by the oil spill.”
Read the resolution passed by the City Council


Visitors Center to host ‘Biloxi’ photography exhibit

The Biloxi Visitor Center next week will host an opening reception for a month-long exhibition of works by photographer Robert Brooks.

Brooks, a New Orleans native who has been a professional freelance and art photographer for more than 40 years, settled in Biloxi in 1987.

In 1994 he volunteered to hang an exhibition of black-and-white photographs by photographer Roland Freeman at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art.  That began a 15-year-plus job at the museum, where he held positions of photographer, exhibitions specialist, education outreach coordinator and curator.  He still works with the museum on occasion, helping install new exhibitions.

His Visitors Center exhibition, titled “Biloxi,” will feature some photographs that were taken before Katrina and some from today. The opening reception will be Thursday, Sept. 10 at 5:30 p.m. His work will hang throughout October.

Says Brooks of his work: “If you ever walked on the beach here around sunset you will notice two things immediately, the variety of shore birds and the sunsets.  And, if you’ve ever been to Hiller Park on the Back Bay in West Biloxi, you can also enjoy those same birds and sunsets.”

The Biloxi Visitors Center, at 1050 Beach Blvd., is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
See images from the exhibit