Fireworks show; 10-month milestones; other news, notes

Those attending Biloxi’s Fourth of July fireworks display on Tuesday at 9 p.m. can expect to see an action-packed show that will light up the Casino Row sky for more than a quarter of an hour.

“One of our reps travels to China every year for quality control and product, and last year, we found a new vendor and the stuff we’ve been able to get is just out of this world,” says Rocco Vitale of Pyrotecnico of Louisiana, a Mandeville, La.,-based company that has produced the Biloxi fireworks show for five years, as well as those for such Biloxi events as the Casino Row and Christmas on the Water shows.

“I think people will notice a big change in the product this year,” Vitale said. “In fireworks, the products are always getting more innovative, and, with the Biloxi show, we can get into using larger shells, which means you can do even more.”

Biloxi Police, who will be patrolling U.S. 90 on Tuesday evening, remind motorists that parking along U.S. 90 is allowed only in parking bays. Vehicles should not park on center medians, and motorists should use extra caution, particularly in the viewing spots between Casino Row and the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor.

The show, which will be staged from a barge between Deer Island and east beach, will feature shells as large as 8 inches in diameter, “or about the size of a basketball, which is a pretty substantial shell,” Vitale said. Among the fireworks in the Biloxi show will be “brocade crowns,” and “red, white and blue peonies.”

Said Vitale: “We’re really happy that this show is going on in Biloxi this year. And I don’t mean that from a financial standpoint. I’m from Pittsburgh, and we bought Classic Fireworks, a New Orleans company, five years ago. And ever since we’ve been here, the community of Biloxi has been nothing but great to us, and we’re happy to be a part of it.”

Two milestones on eve of 10-month point of recovery

Biloxi’s storm recovery marked two milestones today: Mayor A.J. Holloway delivered his first post-Katrina welcome address to a convention hosted in Biloxi this morning at IP Casino Resort, and, a half-hour later and a block away on Bayview Avenue, Boomtown Casino re-opened its doors to a stampede of guests.

Holloway spoke to the U.S. Conference of Mayors-organized meeting of the Urban Water Council, a gathering in which local leaders are meeting with a host of authorities to discuss such topics as rebuilding wastewater treatment infrastructure in the wake of a disaster. To see the mayor’s welcome remarks to the group, click here.

Meantime, Boomtown Casino became the fifth Biloxi casino to re-open since Hurricane Katrina. Last week, Treasure Bay re-opened, joining the IP, Isle of Capri and Palace, which re-opened in December.

Grand Casino aims to re-open in mid-August on Casino Row north of U.S. 90, and Beau Rivage Resort and Casino is planning an Aug. 29 opening.

“Today, we have about 5,000 people back at work in these casino resorts,” Holloway said this morning. “And, if you consider the construction going on at the individual properties, add another couple thousand workers to the number. It’s a matter of jobs, expanding the tax base and seeing private investment, which are the things that are going to help drive this city’s recovery.

“We’ll see the numbers continue to climb as the weeks and months go by, and more and more people get back in their homes.”

Updated status on city’s debris-removal efforts

The latest word on debris removal efforts, as reported by city debris czar Jonathan Kiser:

“The city has removed more than 2.6 million cubic yards of debris, which would be enough to cover a football field and stand 123 stories high The majority of the debris, 68 percent, is from public rights-of-way, with the remaining portion removed from private property.

“The 100 percent federal reimbursement for debris removal ends on Friday, June 30 and will drop to 90 percent federal funding for eligible debris removal. The city’s original estimate of 4 million cubic yards of debris included marine debris and land debris that would be removed by FEMA, the Department of Marine Resources, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

“The volume of land-based debris that would be eligible under the FEMA Public Assistance program is forecast to be about 3 million cubic yards. The city is nearly complete with the work effort on debris removal from eligible private property and has cleared over 3,400 parcels of storm-related debris.

“The remaining work effort for debris removal within the city is primarily within the public rights-of-way, navigable waterways and drainage ways within the City.

“The National Resource Conservation Service awarded two contracts in Biloxi on June 21 for removal of storm debris from the major drainage ways within the city. A total of 47 sites were approved by NRCS, and the two contractors have about 35 days to complete this work.

“DMR anticipates the award of the coastline cleanup contract for the three Mississippi coastal counties next week. The contractor for the marine debris removal project will have about 90 days to complete the debris cleanup from below mean high tide to a half mile off shore.”

News and notes

One-year observance: The city is planning to conduct a memorial observance on Aug. 29, the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, at 8 a.m. on the Biloxi Town Green. Details will be worked out over the next few weeks.

Another milestone: With this Storm Recovery News e-mail, the city has transmitted a half-million e-news announcements since May 2005. The audience of recipients locally and around the world has grown from 1,500 pre-Katrina to nearly 3,200 today. You can see all previously transmitted e-mails on the city web site under the heading Your City at Work.