Mayor shares updates, challenges over breakfast

The last twenty months or so have been non-stop for the city and Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich explained and displayed that to a chamber audience on Wednesday at Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi.

Gilich’s 26-minute presentation focused on dozens of projects that are taking place throughout the city.

“It’s extraordinary and continues to be extraordinary,” Gilich said.

One of the most recent visual signs of progress the mayor addressed was the opening of the new Keesler Air Force Base main gate. Gilich added that the use of the widened Division Street corridor between I-110 and the new gate will be a seamless transition for those entering and exiting the base once all is complete.

As for the city’s finances, they are in good financial health. And, according to the mayor, gross gaming revenues for the eight casinos in Biloxi is in line to bump up to a billion dollars again. After a record year in 2021 in the middle of this pandemic and the challenges that are ongoing, the city’s sales tax diversion has exceeded a million dollars fifteen months in a row.

Among the nearly 50 capital projects underway, Gilich pointed out some challenges to projects like the South Contract infrastructure repairs, the upcoming Main Street railroad crossing changes, Saenger Theatre exterior renovations, and the Popp’s Ferry Road connector, to name a few.

A prime example of a challenge, Gilich noted, is the seawall walkway with construction delayed about 60 days because of Least Terns.

“As soon as the Least Terns head to South America or Deer Island, either one, we can get that started again,” said Gilich.

Another challenge has been the renovations to the Saenger Theatre. Front exterior brickwork has created some delays but Mayor Gilich said progress is happening. A $600,000 roof has been installed and the doorways and windows are expected to be complete by September before more interior work continues.

A Woolmarket master plan is also being worked on. Improvements to Shriners Boulevard and Shortcut Road and Shorecrest, and the water and sewer in subdivisions are on the city’s radar, says Gilich. The Jim Byrd water main is also being considered.

High on Mayor Gilich’s radar is the removal of sand from along U.S. 90 and sidewalks. Gilich said that about a million dollars were spent last October to successfully remove sand that had stacked up over five years along the highway. And, more projects were in the works.

Mayor Gilich showcased a container full of a sand byproduct from a fracking operation that a sandpit company uses to show for screening, refining, and cleaning sand. The whole idea is a ‘new and faster way’ to get the beach looking in tip-top shape. And, the heavier sand will not raise and blow onto U.S. 90, Gilich said.

“The sand is about 500 to 800 micron. What we have now is probably about 200-300 micron, a powder-like sand that’s been pumped up to replenish the sand beach in the past,” Gilich explained. “It needs to be done. It’s a continuing operating basis.”

As far as the Popp’s Ferry Extension and a new bridge, make no mistake there will be no tolls. $7 million from a bond will go towards the completion of this project, says the Mayor.

“We’re shovel ready. We’re bid-ready. And, we have our matching part to complete the extension to Highway 90,” said Gilich. “Thanks to the bond, we’re prepared to go forward.” 

Added Gilich: “I’m very confident in where we’re going to go. It’s going to be a fight; it always has been. I’ve been in the ring before, and I’ve gone a few rounds, so I’m ready to go and push to 2023 and beyond.”
Video: See Breakfast with the Mayor
Photos: See a gallery from the presentation

News & Notes: Community calendar, council

Weekend Update: In lieu of our Biloxi A-to-Z weekly video update, click here for the Biloxi Community Calendar for July.

Biloxi City Council: The council meets Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. followed by a special-called meeting to discuss the upcoming budget. To see both agendas, click here. To see an archive of council meeting videos, click here.