Platoons of Biloxi volunteers to aid Florida community

A host of Biloxi firefighters and others from the West End Hose Co. No. 3 fire museum are leaving Biloxi this afternoon for a weeklong relief effort in the small community of Port St. Joe, a Florida waterfront community that’s 30 minutes from Mexico Beach, ground zero from Hurricane Michael.

Biloxi Fire Chief Joe Boney reports that the Biloxi effort, which is coordinated with colleagues from the New Sharon (Iowa) Volunteer Fire Department, will spend the week gutting and helping clear debris from the homes of firefighters and first responders.

The work will be the volunteer group’s largest effort since the partnership was formed after Hurricane Katrina.

“Because of the relative closeness of Port St. Joe – it’s about a 4½-hour drive from Biloxi – we’ll be platooning people throughout the week,” Boney said. “Our initial group today will be 10 people, and we’ll have another group of eight to 10 fresh people every two days. They’ll come in, work, spend the night, work the next day and then head back to Biloxi.

“So we’ll have 20 people working in two shifts, and we’ll all be housed at the volunteer fire department there.”

The town of about 3,600 was devastated Oct. 10 when Hurricane Michael roared ashore with maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour, just two miles per hour short of Category 5 intensity. Port St. Joe, which covers about nine square miles compared to Biloxi’s 50 square miles, averages only three feet above sea level.

Boney said former Deputy Fire Chief John Jennings was in Port St. Joe this week to help arrange logistics.

“John was with the city manager and the fire chief Thursday,” Boney said. “He said it is pretty bad. In fact, you still have to have credentials to get into Mexico Beach. They’re not even letting people in. We’ve gotten a list from the Port St. Joe city manager, and we’re hoping our two groups will be able to do 15 or 20 homes.”

The Biloxi and New Sharon  efforts date back to when New Sharon firefighters were in Biloxi post-Katrina. Since that time, the two departments have made relief trips in the aftermaths of Super Storm Sandy, Oklahoma and central Mississippi tornadoes, Baton Route flooding, to Rockport, Texas for Nate damage, and most recently in North Carolina, in the Florence-flooded areas.
Donate online to help with Biloxi’s relief effort


Developer to study east Biloxi convention center sites

The idea of an east Biloxi convention center — to be located amidst the 5,000 or so hotel rooms east of Interstate 110 – is not a new one, but now a developer could be stepping in to take a serious look at the issue.

Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich is proposing the city enter into an agreement where BBR Biloxi development would invest as much as $250,000 to consider the idea, suggest sites, and, if feasible, move forward with a $150 million, “world class, waterfront, mixed use convention center and retail project.”

The idea of a second convention center in Biloxi, closer to the large inventory of hotel rooms in east Biloxi, has been discussed for decades, and tourism leaders brought the idea up again at a two-day waterfront conference weeks ago at Biloxi City Hall.

Under the proposal on the City Council agenda meeting Tuesday, BBR Biloxi would identify potential sites in east Biloxi, which could include the vacant city-owned Tullis-Toledano property on east beach. In fact, the resolution says if Tullis is indeed deemed a favorable site, the developer could have first option to buy the land, at 20 percent above market value.

Also on Tuesday, the City Council will have a 4 p.m. meeting to continue discussion on a proposed $14 million bond to fund major and citywide projects.
See the convention center resolution
See the City Council agendas for Tuesday


Downtown events, disc golf usher in Fall

Fall has officially begun and the cooler temperatures today are expected to continue throughout the weekend.  That’s good news because popular outdoor events dominate the weekend.

Tonight, the monthly First Friday event takes place along Rue Magnolia and Water Street. From 5 to 8 p.m. the downtown businesses will open their doors and extend their hours for visitors to the Biloxi Arts District.  Activities include giveaways, the Gallery 782 opening of its newest show, “It’s All about the Details” by Gail Cheney and Dawn Hill,  and entertainment by Colin Lockey.  Coastal Creative Hive, an independent co-op of friends and artists, will also have an art show located at the former Radish Loft on Rue Magnolia. 

On Saturday, the Thiller at Hiller VI disc golf tournament takes place at Hiller Park.  Registration for the tournament begins at 7 a.m., a players meeting will be at 8:30 a.m.,  and the first round begins at 9 a.m. Divisions are open to all ages and The Crooked Letter Brewery will be on site offering free beer to the participants.  The tournament takes place at the park’s disc golf course.

Also this weekend is the state’s largest arts festival, the Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival. The event takes place in Ocean Springs, just over the Biloxi Bay Bridge on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but has an economic impact of $24 million.

“This event attracts 150,000 visitors,” says event organizer Cynthia Sutton, a twin sister of Biloxi’s public affairs specialist.  “Visitors and vendors stay at hotels, visit restaurants and gas stations not only in Ocean Springs but in Biloxi and surrounding areas.”

This year marks the event’s 40th anniversary and includes 475 vendors, commemorative festival T-shirts, the Blue Moon Art Project, and new this year, two entertainment stages.

Elsewhere this weekend: Sinbad will be at the IP, Patti LaBelle will be at the Beau Rivage, and Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley will perform at the Golden Nugget.
See the Biloxi Community Calendar
See a complete weekend lineup


News and notes: Roast, podcast, traffic

Roast: With 495 seats sold, the roast of Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich Thursday night at the IP Resort was the largest roast in the 16-year history of Biloxi First, and the success of event, says Biloxi First  President Tanner Swetman, is a reason the Biloxi non-profit has grown its education endowment fund to more than a million dollars. To see photos of the grilling of the mayor, which raised tens of thousands of dollars for classroom projects in Biloxi Public Schools, click here.

Podcast:  Proposed bond issues and other news of note are discussed in this week’s edition of the City Desk podcast. To listen to the program, click here

Traffic:  To see the status of road and infrastructure work throughout the city, click here