City OKs ‘southwest contract’ for infrastructure work

The city’s massive infrastructure project is getting ready to move south of the CSX Railway, and Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich is once again promising that residents and businesses will not see the same widespread disruption as in the areas north of the railroad.

The Biloxi City Council on Tuesday awarded a $22.9 million, 800-day contract to Hemphill Construction Co., a Florence, Miss. firm that successfully completed infrastructure work in the North Bay area.

Work south of the railway is expected to begin after the first of the year, and instead of a “south contract,” it will be more of a “southwest contract.”

“The city will maintain a good bit of control over this next phase of work,” Gilich said. “You’re not going to see 55 miles of roads torn up at the same time, and you’re going to see a contract that mandates work be done in an orderly fashion with limited inconvenience.”

Since he became mayor in a special election in 2015 and was re-elected earlier this year, Gilich has wrestled with how to minimize inconvenience with the so-called “north contract,” which has seen dusty dirt roads flood and turn to mud in heavy rainfall.

Although the mayor had temporary pavement added to a number of major thoroughfares and contractor Oscar Renda has made progress in applying more asphalt to more streets, the city is limited in measures it can take under the existing contract, which the City Council approved May 6, 2014, a year before Gilich took office.

However, for the so-called south contract, the mayor had the city infrastructure program manager, Walt Rode, insert a number of controls into the contract that was approved by the City Council on Tuesday. The measures limit the contractor’s ability to disrupt too large of an area for an inordinate amount of time, which has been a long-running issue in the areas north of the CSX railway.

The north contract construction zone covers from west of I-110 to the easternmost tip of the Biloxi peninsula, north of the CSX railway. The initial phase of work south of the CSX railway will include an area west of downtown, essentially from about St. Paul Street to the I-110. And even that area will be divided into two sections, further limiting the disruption.

Among the safeguards in the new contract:

– The contractor is required to begin underground utility work no later than two weeks after pavement disturbance, or the contractor must apply temporary paving at the contractor’s expense.

– The contractor must substantially complete a “work activity” in an area before advancing to the next area. That is, all drainage must be completed in an area before beginning drainage work in next area. The city determines substantially complete.

– At least one north-south roadway and one east-west roadway connector shall remain open and paved in each area while other roads are being constructed.
See the map of the ‘southwest contract’ work area