Mayor encouraged by President, senators

Mayor A.J. Holloway says he’s encouraged and optimistic after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and other senators in Biloxi this afternoon, and after listening to President Bush’s nationwide address Thursday night, which included a promise of federal funding for an unprecedented, long-term recovery effort for hurricane-stricken areas.

“I feel very good,” Holloway said this evening. “The President has told me personally on more than one occasion and he said it to the nation last night: The federal government is going to help us get back on our feet, to get people back in homes, back to work, and do these things in a way where we set our own destiny.”

Holloway met this afternoon with Frist (R-Tenn.) and several others, including Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

“They were really moved by the level of devastation they saw,” Holloway said. “They said they’re going to get us some help. They said they understand the situation that we’re in, and they pledged their support.”

Debris removal work may get even quicker

More than 140,00 cubic yards of debris has been hauled from city streets and public rights-of-way as of this evening, which is Day 6 of the city’s full-time debris-removal effort.

“We’re very happy with the way it’s going,’ said Brian Fulton of Neel-Schaffer, the firm overseeing the three debris-removal contracts the city entered after the initial post-storm debris efforts.

“There are more than 300 trucks out there hauling debris everyday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and we’re trying to ramp up our operation to get this debris out of the way so that people can begin rebuilding their lives and homes.”

Mayor A.J. Holloway has challenged Neel-Shaffer and the debris-removal teams — Crowder-Gulf Joint Venture, Yates Construction and Ceres Environrment – to complete the debris removal in 45 days. Debris is being hauled to approved debris sites north of I-10, where it is either buried or burned.

Under the plan, the city has been divided into three sections or grids, and each of the three contractors is responsible for a particular section. The plan also calls for four passes to be made through streets and neighborhoods, which would allow property owners sufficient time to move debris on their property to the curb, where it could be picked up by debris crews.

Workers are prohibited from entering private property to remove debris, a rule that Holloway hopes the federal government will waive so that all debris can be removed in a timely manner.

“The crews are picking up most of the debris on the first pass,” Fulton said. “So if a property owner sees where they may have missed something, they’ll get it on the ensuing passes.”

Property owners can help the effort by moving debris from their property to the curb in the next week or so, and they should make sure it is not placed too close to utility poles, water or gas meters, or fire hydrants.

“The crews have gotten quite a few compliments from the public, and we appreciate that,” Fulton said. “We also ask that people continue to remain patient when the heavy equipment or trucks may be temporarily blocking neighborhood streets. We’re working as quickly as we can.”

Boil-water notice lifted north of the Bay

Public Works Director Richard Sullivan announced this afternoon that the boil-water notice for city water customers north of the Bay of Biloxi has been lifted.

Sullivan said work is continuing on the water service for the remainder of the city, and he hoped the boil-water notice could be lifted by mid-week, pending positive water samples and an OK from state agencies.

“We still have some issues to take care of,” Sullivan said this afternoon. “Our primary concern is and always will be the public’s health. Once we’re confident that we’ve passed all of the tests, and only after the state approves, we’ll notify the public. For the time being, though, the boil-water notice remains in effect for areas south of the Bay.”

Updated storm recovery info on way to Biloxians

Biloxi residents – at least those with mailboxes or PO boxes – should be receiving a “Storm Recovery News” mailout Saturday or Sunday.

The four-page city publication, which was printed Thursday, includes information about the FEMA Disaster Recovery Center now open in Biloxi, a status report on repairs to major roadways and bridges, along with answers to frequently asked questions about the recovery effort.

“We’re very appreciative of our vendors – The Ad Group, First American Printing and the U.S. Postal Service – for helping get this important news out to the public,” Mayor A.J. Holloway said.

Copies of the newsletter also are being distributed by relief workers in east Biloxi, and it will be available at many churches this weekend.

You can see a copy of “Storm Recovery News” at

A Vietnamese version is available at .

News and notes

— Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, spoke to Biloxi public safety workers and volunteers during a prayer service this afternoon on the steps of the Lopez-Quave Public Safety Center.

— You can hear updated storm info by calling the city’s Storm Recovery Line at 435-6300.