Holloway outlines progress in chamber presentation

Here is the prepared text of Mayor A.J. Holloway’s presentation to the Biloxi Chamber’s “Breakfast with the Mayor,” on Oct. 14, 2008 in the cafeteria at Biloxi Regional Medical Center.

Good morning, I’m glad that so many of you turned out to hear this update on what we have going on in Biloxi.

I suppose one of the biggest milestones we saw in the past couple of weeks was the City Council approving the hiring of a program manager to coordinate the $355 million in infrastructure work that we’ll be doing.

The work, expected to take several years, will involve the paving of about 100 miles of streets, the replacement and repair of about 170 miles of sewer and water lines, and 60 miles of storm drains, and the repair or replacement of 48 lift stations and 22 water wells.

In short, it if went underwater, we’re either replacing it or repairing it.

If this all sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is.

Let me put it in context for you: In the 10 to 12 years before Hurricane Katrina, we spent an average of $16 million a year on major projects.

That’s things like building the Lopez-Quave Public Safety Center, the Public Safety Communications Center, new fire stations at Back Bay and East End, the Donal Snyder West Biloxi Community Center, the Biloxi Sports Complex, or rebuilding Popp’s Ferry Road, or building the new Caillavet Street or Back Bay Boulevard.

$16 million a year, and now we’re looking to spend at least $355 million. …

If you do the math, it would take 22 years to get all of this work done, but we want to see it done in five to seven years.

To do that and to continue to meet our day-to-day responsibilities, we need a firm that’s accustomed to handling work of this magnitude.

We went through an evaluation process to determine the best firm. We had several dozen firms interested. Some were local, some regional and some national.

We choose HNTB because they brought a tremendous depth of experience to handling huge projects like this.

Although they will be coordinating the work from beginning to end, the engineering and actual construction, we’re hoping, will be done by local engineers and contractors.

Looking long-term, the most promising aspect of this massive project is that it will provide us brand-new infrastructure that will serve us well for the next 30 or 40 years.

We’ll have brand-new streets, sidewalks, curbs and gutters in key areas of the city. We’ll have set the table for economic development and growth.

That’s what we did out in the Cedar-Popp’s area, and you can see the results today – restaurants, small and large businesses, banks, hotels and a thriving economy because we have wide, safe roads, sidewalks and good infrastructure in general.

There’s a lot of construction underway in Biloxi at the moment. Let me tell you about 10 major developments under construction right now.

On Brodie Road, there’s the 80-lot Reunion Place Planned Unit Development and the 40-lot Live Oak on the Bay Subdivision.

Reconstruction of the Motel 6 on west beach is underway, as is the Snapper Restaurant at Rodenberg and a new Hooters near where the Roadhouse Restaurant used to be. And, of course, John Mladinich is rebuilding the White Pillars restaurant, once a Biloxi institution, off Highway 90 at Rodenberg.

The South Beach Condominiums, which are now a condotel, look like they’re almost complete.

The Avalon, a 198-unit condo project at the old Gulf Towers, is under renovation, as is the Biloxi Yacht Club.

In downtown Biloxi, Hancock Bank is making progress on its new location at Howard and Caillavet, and there’s a new restaurant, the Fillin’ Station under construction at Main and Howard.

Our Development Review Committee also gave the go-ahead to 300 new apartments units.

There’s the 224-unit project known as Biloxi Gates, which will be at Woolmarket Road and Old Highway 67, and Bellemont Gardens, a 60-unit complex that will be off Popp’s Ferry Road at Motsie Road.

I got a call last week from a reporter in Galveston wanting to know what people there should expect to see in the days, weeks and months after Hurricane Ike.

My answer is: nothing fast. Things take time, particularly when you have the federal and state governments involved.

There’s two ways of looking at it: You can do it RIGHT, or you can do it RIGHT NOW. I prefer to do it right.

That’s very true when you’re dealing with historic properties and historic sites like we have in Biloxi.

Let me give you a few examples.

We’ve been hoping – and I still HOPE – that we’ll be in a position to break ground on the new Visitors Center north of the Biloxi Lighthouse.

This $11 million structure will be a great asset for the city, but we’re still working through the necessary state and federal process.

It’s the same story at the Biloxi Lighthouse. The lighthouse restoration plans are complete and being reviewed by WJE, the engineering firm consulting on the project.

That review will be complete in two weeks. At that time, we will send the plans to FEMA, MEMA, and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for approval before going to bid.

The project should be ready for bid December 1 with a 30-day bid due date. The project is expected to take 180 days, assuming we do not have to have bricks manufactured.

As for cost, the FEMA Worksheet is for 71,636.44. Our local estimate for the project was $348,980. I would expect our local estimate to be closer to what the project is going to cost when all is said and done.

The Old Brick House plans are being sent to MEMA FEMA and MDAH today. We are going to bid in 30 days and expecting to award a contract within two months.

The project is estimated to be completed in 270 days from the Notice to Proceed.. The Architect’s cost estimate is $696,000.

Restoration plans for the Swetman House, Magnolia Hotel and Fire Museum are in the final stage of completion and all should be ready for review in two weeks and ready for bid in 45 to 60 days.

That’s the story on things in Biloxi. We’ve got a lot going on, and plenty more in the works.

Like I’ve said more than once in the past 30 or so months, we see a milestone – large or small – each and every day.

Finally, I want to thank all of you for your continued support, your prayers, and your patience.