Holloway outlines broad program of progress, promise

Mayor A.J. Holloway outlined dozens of recovery and improvement projects either underway or in the works during his State of the City address today, and he also said the city is moving forward on major projects that were being talked about before the storm, particularly east-west and north-south traffic corridors..

“It’s been 29 months and 14 days since Hurricane Katrina devastated our community,” Holloway told a sold-out audience of 700 during a Biloxi Bay Chamber of Commerce-sponsored luncheon at the Beau Rivage. “I am proud to say that we are making progress each and every day here in Biloxi.”

“Our potential and our promise,” he added, “are greater today than at any other time in our history. We are on the right track.”

During his 30-minute address, Holloway noted that since the Aug. 29, 2005 storm, the city has issued more than a billion dollars in construction or repair permits, the city’s eight casino resorts had generated more than a billion dollars in gross gaming revenue, and Biloxi has a half-billion dollars in recovery requests pending with FEMA.

He also noted that the city has completely re-lit Beach Boulevard, re-opened a refurbished Biloxi Community Center, spent more than $5½ million to replace storm-destroyed vehicles and heavy equipment, and completed more than two dozen projects in the past year.

Holloway made repeated references to the Reviving the Renaissance report, a post-storm initiative in which more than 200 Biloxians came together to help draft a recovery plan for the city.

“Much of the work that you’re seeing is coming directly from the pages of the Reviving the Renaissance report,” Holloway said.

“You told us that you wanted to see city facilities better than they were before. You told us that you wanted us to save historic structures where we could. You told us you wanted quality schools, quality health care and convenient public transit.

“That’s why you see the refurbished community center on Howard Avenue, the restoration of the Biloxi City Cemetery, one of the oldest sites in this city; or the new Coastal Family Health Center on Division Street.

“All of these things were suggested in the Reviving the Renaissance report. These are things that you said were important to our quality life.”

Holloway also applauded the efforts of the city’s local partners, such as:

—The Biloxi Housing Authority, which is creating more than 1,500 new housing units;

—Keesler Air Force Base, which has embarked on the largest military housing construction program in the history of the Air Force;

—Coast Transit Authority, which last year carried a record half-million passengers and launched a Casino Hopper shuttle service that is transporting more than 13,000 passengers a month.

—And Biloxi Public Schools, where the U.S. Department of Education named Biloxi High School one of the best schools in the country, and where school board members are in the process of a $14.5 million high school expansion that will lead to free pre-kindergarten classes in the district.

“And for the record,” Holloway told the applauding audience, “we have now gone 15 years with raising your city property taxes.”

The city currently has architects and engineers working on the repairs or reconstruction of nearly a dozen city facilities, Holloway noted.

Additionally, major repairs will be made to such thoroughfares as Pass Road, Irish Hill Drive and Howard Avenue. Two major boulevards also are in the works: at Veterans Avenue in west Biloxi and at Pine Street in east Biloxi.

Holloway also announced that next month an informational meeting will be held next month in west Biloxi to outline a federally funded initiative towards making Popp’s Ferry a bonafide north-south corridor to connect U.S. 90 and I-10.

The mayor also announced that he has asked Gov. Haley Barbour to help secure funding for an environmental assessment for another much-discussed project, the construction of a new east-west corridor to span the Gulf Coast.

“These east-west and north-south corridors are not going to be easy,” Holloway declared. “They are going to take years of planning and millions of dollars, but I think we need to continue to do the ground work because they are very important to our future.”

Major infrastructure improvements – whether in streets and drainage, new roads or new schools, help move traffic and the economy, Holloway said, pointing to the tremendous growth on Cedar Lake Road.

“You’re seeing this huge amount of private investment out on Cedar-Popp’s because they don’t have the issues like flood insurance and elevations that are slowing the recovery in other areas of our city,” Holloway said.

“You’re also seeing this area blossom because of the tremendous amount of improvements we made in streets, drainage, infrastructure, the sports complex and let’s not forget the new high school and elementary school.

“Our role in city government is to provide all of the essentials to give you an outstanding quality of life. Our role is to set the table for economic development. And you’re going to continue to see more of that.“

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—To read the text of Mayor A.J. Holloway’s State of the City address, click here.