Gilich speaks of the roads to the future

Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, speaking today to a standing-room audience in his first State of the City address, acknowledged the poor condition of roads under construction in east Biloxi and made two promises about the work: temporary paving is in the works for major thoroughfares, and residents and businesses would not see a repeat when the work progresses south of the CSX railway.

The roadwork was one of a litany of city issues the mayor discussed during a 35-minute presentation that featured opening and closing remarks around a 30-minute video containing hundreds of photos and video of work from throughout the city and highlighting city departments and partner agencies.

Gilich, who took office in a special election nine months ago, reminded the Biloxi Bay Chamber of Commerce audience of 700 at the Beau Rivage of the city’s work in opening MGM Park ahead of schedule, securing a Coast-best $4.9 million settlement from BP, work on bringing ultra high-speed internet to the Gulf Coast, and the establishment of a forum of Coast leaders to foster consensus on Coastwide issues.

Said the mayor: “For too long some state leaders have thwarted the Coast through a divide-and-conquer strategy. They play one or more of us against each other.”

At the same time, he said, he wanted to make sure Biloxi received a fair return on its contributions to the state economy.

While pointing out Biloxi’s minimal yield on Tidelands funds – generating $6.9 million but receiving only $680,000 in return last year – the mayor outlined the city’s unprecedented legislative request of $15 million in Tidelands funds and $100 million in BP funds. He envisions massive waterfront revitalization projects, including expansion of the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor, Point Cadet Marina, a new marina and a Fisherman’s Wharf feel on Back Bay, a festival boardwalk with public pavilions connecting the row of restaurants on west beach.

But, as he updated work on the city’s $355 million infrastructure project, he reminded audience members that he drove the same torn-up city streets as they do.

Gilich said the work on 55 miles of roads north of the CSX railway in east Biloxi is a three-year project that began in August 2014. “That means we have about 19 months to go,” the mayor declared. “We are going to continue to stay on the contractor, to do everything we can legally do to keep these roads passable and this project moving forward.

“Here’s something else I can tell you. When this work moves to south of the CSX railway, it’s going to be a whole new ballgame – MY ballgame.

“We’re not going to see a contractor come in and tear up 55 miles of streets. It’s going to be controlled. It’s going to be supervised, and it’s going to be orderly. But make no mistake. It IS major construction. It will be inconvenient. I’m sure we will hear some complaining.”

Throughout his presentation, Gilich spoke of Biloxi’s colorful history and culture, and acknowledged a need to promote and protect the “Biloxi brand.”

Added the mayor: “Recently, I was reminded that I am in my ninth month as mayor of Biloxi. Let me assure you as we speak this day, we are in labor and continue to deliver.”
Read the prepared text of the mayor’s presentation
See photos from today’s luncheon