Holloway, no Senator he, updates city projects

Here is the prepared text of Mayor A.J. Holloway’s presentation to the Biloxi Rotary on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008 during a luncheon at Mary Mahoney’s Old French House Restaurant.

Good afternoon, and thank you for inviting me to be here. I hope all of you had a Merry Christmas and that you have a great New Year.

I planned on giving you a progress report on several major projects, but first I want to make an announcement.

I’ve been mayor for a number of years now, and I’m proud of the accomplishments we’ve seen and the support you’ve given me. …

Today, I announce that I will not seek – and I will not accept – the nomination of my party to serve as your … next U.S. Senator.

I tried to call Haley a couple of weeks ago to give him the news, but his number was busy. It seems that more people called to be taken off the list than were even on the list to start with.

I know some wanted a South Mississippian appointed to this position, but I have to say that Roger Wicker is a person who can hit the ground running and make a difference.

Some people may not be aware that he’s been playing an important role in supporting our recovery. He was a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and was Deputy Republican Whip. He made quite an impact. I look forward to working with him.

In fact, I hope our two chambers here in Biloxi can work together to host a gathering more of our local people can get to know Roger better.

Now, regarding some of the on-going progress we’re seeing here in Biloxi:

— The Biloxi Community Center holds its first carnival ball this weekend. When you go into that facility you’re going to be walking into a 40-year-old building that’s brand new. It has a new color scheme, new sound and light systems, new seating in a glass-lined balcony, a new ceiling, a new exterior stairway that leads directly to the balcony and a new elevator.

— We’ve had some issues at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor, where a 6.5 million dollar project is underway. The pilings have been breaking off at their base as the contactor has been trying to remove them, which has delayed the dredging operations. We’re shooting for a March completion, but I think it’s going to be after that before we get back up and running.

— At the Biloxi Sports Complex, repairs to the roofing, bleachers and dugouts are expected to be completed in March.

— The Natatorium is closed until May when we’ll unveil a $1.2 million facelift of this facility.

— We’ll beginning projects soon to get our firefighters at East End and Back Bay out of their temporary trailers and back into those fire stations. Both of them sustained flooding. East End, which took on about six feet of water, is a $336,000 project and should be completed in four to six months. Back Bay is about $118,000 and should be completed in six to eight months.

—We’re also going to be building a new fire station on city property at Popp’s Ferry Road, east of Cedar Lake Road. We’ve budgeted 1.5 million dollars, and if we get good bids, we ought to be able to begin cosntruction soon and be in there in 12 to 16 months.

Those are things you can see. Here are a few you can’t see right now, but are on the way:

— We have architects working on construction specifications for a new library and cultural center on Howard Avenue, a new Visitors Center at what we’re calling Lighthouse Park, and on repairs to the Old Brick House, Magnolia Hotel and the Biloxi Lighthouse.

— On the 15th, we’ll be announcing the gaming revenue figures for calendar year 2007, and we’re anxious to see what they will be. We already know it’s going to be the biggest year in history. In fact, the 11 months into the year, we outpaced the previous record, which was 911 million in 2004. I think you all know what number we’re hoping for, but we’ll see. Regardless of whether we hit that billion-dollar mark, it was an extraordinary year.

— When you consider those gaming figures and the billion dollars in permits we’ve issued since Katrina – half of which were non-casino and non-condo – and the Biloxi Bay Bridge fully opening in April this all tells the rest of the county that Biloxi is indeed coming back bigger and better.