Oscar Renda: Where we are and how we’re moving forward

Nearly two years into a huge job that contractor Oscar Renda says was beset with multiple engineering issues, progress is being made on installing a main sewer line on Division Street, which will lead to similar, smaller lines being installed on connecting streets.

The company, which is constructing a federally funded $119 million project that is replacing virtually all of the water, sewer and storm drain lines in east Biloxi, explained the arduous process in an 11-minute video produced by the city. The video is a follow up to a presentation made during a recent City Council meeting.

At issue with most current city leaders, residents and businesses is that Oscar Renda removed pavement from 55 miles of streets in east Biloxi, leaving dusty, pothole-riddled neighborhood thoroughfares throughout east Biloxi, with no significant progress being made in finishing those streets.

“One thing we know is that there has been a great deal of finger pointing on this job over the past few years, and while the city is not taking anyone’s side, we’re sure there is plenty of responsibility to go around,” said Chief Administrative Officer David Nichols. “But Mayor Gilich has been in office one year today, and he’s worked nearly every day to find a way to speed up a project that was begun years ago under a previous administration, and has nine different, detailed contracts that would require state and federal approval before any changes could be made.

“We’ve had great results from the temporary paving on major thoroughfares, and we’re announcing a new round of temporary paving on Friday,” Nichols continued, “but our focus remains on the big picture, moving the permanent work forward.”

The good news, according to the contractor: Progress is being made on both ends of Division Street, the backbone of the project, which means work will then branch out to connecting neighborhood streets north and south of Division.

The bad news: The planned three-year construction, which began in August 2014, looks to be a four-year job.

“When you have design problems, it not only affects that area, but every area around it,” Project General Superintendent John Cowart says of the issues that were discovered a year into the project and impacted both ends of Division Street.¬† Crews, he added, were forced to move to other areas of the project while engineering drawings were reconfigured, and Oscar Renda opted to mill all 55 miles of roadways to install water lines.

As many as 130 construction workers are on the job as many as 60 to 70 hours a week, the company said.
See Oscar Renda’s video update