Holloway on the state of the city: Let’s get on with it

Mayor A.J. Holloway said Biloxi has issued more than a quarter-billion dollars in residential and commercial building permits in the past year, and although the city has architects and engineers working on 58 city projects, he wants to see more progress.

The four-term mayor, speaking to a sold-out State of the City luncheon today, praised the progress of housing initiatives at Keesler Air Force Base and the Biloxi Housing Authority and noted that the city is beginning to see the return of some restaurants and hotels along the beachfront.

Holloway’s 28-minute presentation before an audience of nearly 700 guests outlined progress made in the past year, talked of the challenges the city faces, and what is being done to overcome those challenges. He received standing ovations at the beginning and end of the speech, despite repeating a call for increases in the city’s fees for some services.

“The city has spent more than $18 million in the past year on moving major rebuilding efforts forward,” Holloway said. “You can see progress at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor, the work underway at Point Cadet Marina, and the restoration of the Biloxi Community Center and our two fire stations in east Biloxi.

“You can see some of the dozen or so restaurants we lost on front beach returning, along with service stations and, yes, homes. We’ve issued permits for three new hotels, $22.7 million in construction, and more than 300 new rooms on the beachfront.

“You can see new landmarks like the Biloxi Yacht Club or our Katrina sculptures that have become so popular with visitors and locals. You see new banks, new churches, and new apartment complexes. In fact, in the past 12 months, we issued permits for three new apartment complexes, accounting for 340 new apartments and more than $20 million in construction.”

During the address, Holloway noted that the city has gone from having architects and engineers working on 10 facilities last year to 58 facilities and assets this year, including a new Visitors Center, new downtown library and cultural center, marinas and harbors, and other city facilities.

“The problem is,” Holloway said, “I want to see some of these facilities coming out of the ground, and I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling. We need to get on with it.

“So what am I doing about speeding these projects up?” Holloway said. “I met with all of the engineers and architects we have working on various city projects. We met at City Hall, but some of them probably felt like we were going to meet in the proverbial woodshed.

“The fact is, and I communicated this fact to them, I want these projects coming out of the ground, and I want to see them started this year. I realize everybody’s busy, but let’s get on with it.”

Holloway also renewed his call for the city to realign its fees for water service, garbage pickup and slip rentals at public harbors and marinas. The current fees are among the lowest in the state and are not sufficient to cover costs.

Said the mayor: “It’s nice to have the lowest price, but it’s more important to have the fairest.”

More State of the City coverage

— To see the Biloxi Bay Chamber of Commerce program for today’s luncheon,
click here.

— To see the prepared text of the mayor’s speech, click here.

— To see more than 60 photos from today’s State of the City luncheon, click here.

— Cable One will air a replay of the speech on Tuesday at 8 and 10 a.m. and 8 and 10 p.m. on Cable Channel 13 in Biloxi.