Mayor updates sports complex, other projects

Here is Mayor A.J. Holloway’s prepared text for his presentations to Biloxi Regional Medical Center’s board and to the Biloxi Chamber’s “Breakfast With the Mayor,” which takes place Tuesday, April 12, 2005.

Sports complex: Last weekend, we had 10 inches of rain in a 15-hour period. After all of that rain, we were able to play 25 games on the new Little League fields at the Biloxi Sports Complex. That’s 680 kids in Little League this year.

Right now, we’re playing 10 games a day at the sports complex, two games a day on each of the five fields, and that will go on through June 1.

This $11 million, 67-acre sports complex also has four softball fields, a baseball field, five Little League fields and enough soccer fields for eight or more soccer games at the same time. Next phase is a maintenance facility, tennis courts and a walking track.

This summer, we’ll be dedicating the new boardwalk and covered pavilion at Popp’s Ferry causeway park. We’re hoping that this project comes in before its June deadline. It’s always nice to have them come in early. Y’all remember Popp’s Ferry Road, huh?

The next phase at the causeway park will be a waterfront boardwalk and upgraded boat ramps, along with new lighting and improved parking.

On the road: Caillavet Street is running ahead of schedule. All drainage has been installed on the east side from Bayview to Percy Street, and storm drains are being installed NOW from Percy to Division. We WILL be driving on new portions of this road by end of this year.

Fire stations: We now have two new fire stations in Biloxi, one at East End and one south of the I-10 Woolmarket exit. This $2 million investment will mean better fire protection for residents. You need to remember that we saw a 24 percent increase last year in the number of fire calls.

Hope VI: Families are moving into new homes in the $36 million Hope VI affordable housing initiative. They’ll be able to attend the nearby state-of-the-art elementary schools at Nichols and Gorenflo.

Kroc, etc.: We should see ground broken near the end of this year on the $22 million Kroc Center of Hope at Yankie Stadium, and we’ll begin demolition at the Dukate site on Howard Avenue to build a new community center across from the current one.

I’m looking forward to seeing ground broken a few blocks down the street, at Division and Lameuse, where residents will find quality, affordable healthcare in a new Coastal Family Health Center.

We’re also continuing infrastructure work. We’re erecting new elevated million gallon water tanks in east Biloxi and Woolmarket. And we’re continuing our work to deliver city water and sewer service to a growing area in Woolmarket.

On the economy: Let me talk about something significant we’re seeing in our local economy. Right now, Biloxi has 561 condominiums. When they were built years ago, those condos represented about $11 million in construction.

Right now, we have 215 condo units under construction – representing 43.9 million dollars in construction.

And developers have proposals to build more than 1,000 more units – investing more than 120 million dollars in new construction.

This is not to say that we’ll see all of those proposed condos move forward, but the units under construction right now will represent a significant boost to our property tax base.

And, most importantly, they signal a diversification in the appeal of our city, and they’re something else we have to offer.

We’re also seeing several apartment complexes being bought and their new owners upgrading them and converting them into condominiums. This will represent a significant boost to our property taxes.

Finances: I was in Las Vegas Monday and Tuesday and had a chance to meet with the new owners of the Grand and the Beau Rivage. They know we have a good thing here in Biloxi.

I know a lot of you here today have spent some time in Jackson over the last few months.

I thank all of you who have helped get our message to the Legislature – that to tinker with the current gaming tax formula would be catastrophic to this community.

We need to remember our message: Things are working the way they’re supposed to be working here in Biloxi, and we need to be able to keep doing the things that we’re doing.

We’re hitting on all cylinders as far as our local economy goes, and I’m proud of the many improvement projects we’ve seen and continue to see here in Biloxi, but at the same time, this comes at a tremendous cost.

Do you realize it costs more than 4 million a month to operate AND fund the many improvement projects we have underway? By the end of the year, our so-called surplus is expected to be under 10 million dollars.

We have three sources of revenue to operate this city. That’s gaming tax revenue, which is about 35 percent of our annual budget. Sales tax is about 24 percent. That’s 59 percent of our revenue. Only 17 percent comes from property taxes, so anything we can do to boost that figure is a good thing.

Listening to those percentages – and how much we rely on our gaming and sales tax – you can see why it’s important that we protect and enhance our three primary sources.

These are just a few of the many issues we’re dealing with at City Hall.