Santa is coming to West End Hose Co. No. 3

Forget the sleigh and North Pole. Santa actually rides a big red fire truck and can be found in an old Biloxi firehouse. With the help of the Biloxi Fire Department and volunteers from the West End Hose Co. No. 3 Fire Museum, Santa Claus will make a visit to the museum Sunday afternoon between 1 and 3.

Children and adults can meet Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick and give him their Christmas gift requests during his visit to the Howard Avenue museum.  Parents may also take pictures of their little ones with the Big Red One.

“This event began about five years ago as a way for the firefighters to spend time with their families,” Biloxi Fire Chief Joe Boney said. “It continued to grow so a couple years ago we said, ‘Why not open it up for everyone?’ It has worked out pretty well.”

The free affair will also include Christmas music, cookies, hot chocolate and free tours of the museum.

Said Boney: “We just want people to spend the afternoon at the museum and just enjoy some down time with family during the Christmas season.”

Elsewhere this weekend: Tonight the Parks & Recreation Department will hold its annual Special Needs Christmas Dance from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Donal M. Snyder Sr. Community Center, and the IP Casino Resort hosts Wynonna & The Big Noise Christmas at 8 p.m.
See the Fire Museum Christmas event flyer
See a list of Christmas events in Biloxi
See a complete lineup of weekend events


East Biloxi roads, Part 1: Answering the tough questions

Walt A. Rode (say “road-ee”), the civil engineer whom Mayor Andrew “FoFo”  Gilich hired six and a half months ago to oversee the city’s massive infrastructure work, answers the tough questions on this week’s City Desk Podcast.

Among them: Why is every street in east Biloxi torn up at the same time? What’s the key to moving this project forward? What’s the cost? When will work move south of the railroad tracks, and will residents see the same widespread disruption?
Listen to the answers on City Desk


East Biloxi roads, Part 2: See the very latest video update

Project Superintendent John Cowart of Oscar Renda, in a progress video filmed Thursday and published today, discusses the current status of the infrastructure work in east Biloxi, with maps and video to show progress of late, the curbing and paving work coming up next week.  You’ll also hear about the original project date, the current projected date, and a DEQ report about concerns over dust. 
See the video of progress


Mayor proposes technology upgrades for city

City employees and anyone who has encountered disruptions or slow service with the city’s email, take notice: Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich is recommending new hardware to upgrade the city’s email and wireless systems.

The $856,000 in technology improvements, funded from across city departments, are one of the more than a dozen measures on the agenda for the City Council meeting Tuesday afternoon at 1:30 at Biloxi City Hall.

The technology improvements “will basically improve efficiency for city employees and the public conducting business with the city,” said Brandon Roberts, a member of the city’s three-person Information Systems Division. Improvements include moving from analog phones to an internet-based phone system, and having a dedicated Microsoft Exchange server to allow improved email service and networking among city departments. Point Cadet Marina and the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor also will get wireless internet service as part of the upgrades.

Also on the agenda Tuesday: Federal funding agreements for Moore Community House ($25,000), Open Doors Homeless Coalition ($20,520) and Gulf Coast Center for Non-Violence ($10,000); a request to Harrison County to construct a splash pad in Hiller Park and pave roads in the Bent Oaks subdivision; a Tidelands lease agreement for a parking lot at Margaritaville; and $193,000 in funding for design work for a waterfront boardwalk in East Biloxi.
See the agenda and supporting documents


Saltgrass Steakhouse project moving forward

Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich is hoping to speed up the city’s regulatory process involving the permitting of a new upscale steakhouse on Point Cadet since the development has already been months in the making.

The Saltgrass Steakhouse, a “Texas to the Bone” brand owned by Golden Nugget parent firm Landry’s, had its initial appearance before the city’s Development Review Committee on Thursday, where key city departments reviewed the initial plans. The proposed restaurant, to be situated at the northeast corner of Myrtle Street and U.S. 90 at the foot of the Biloxi Bay Bridge, now heads to the city’s Architectural and Historic Review Commission.

Saltgrass, which has 15 locations in Houston and restaurants in Pensacola, Branson and Lafayette, La., would have a Biloxi location offering 9,500-square feet, with space for more than 300 patrons, including a covered patio.

Gilich is proposing that since the area remains classified as an historic district, that the AHRC meet on Jan. 12, two weeks earlier than its scheduled meeting, and that the city’s months-old Tree Committee also speed up its review of the development. All the necessary public notices for the project would be satisfied, despite the accelerated schedule. A building permit could be issued by the end of January.
See proposed renderings of the Biloxi Saltgrass
See background on Saltgrass


News and notes

Hiller Park pavilion: Parks & Recreation Director Sherry Bell reports that city crews are nearly complete with the major overhaul of the popular pavilion at the north end of the park. Plans are to have it back in service in mid-January.  Rental information is forthcoming. To see photos of the pre-construction photos, click here.

Sales tax bump: The November report from the Mississippi Department of Revenue shows that the city’s tax collection jumped by 5.5 percent, to just shy of a million dollars. The November report, says Biloxi finance guru Kenneth McKeown, reflects sales taxes collected in September. To see the numbers for Coast cities, click here.

Natatorium heater: It’s not quite cold enough for the Polar Bear plunge, but the water is a bit cooler these days at the Biloxi Natatorium’s indoor Olympic-size pool, pending installation of a new heater. No timetable at this writing, but the Natatorium will remain open. Adds Parks & Rec Superintendent Jamie Lee: “Swimmers can call the Natatorium at 228-435-6205 to check the water temperature.  Another option would be to wear a wet suit if cooler temperatures affect you.”

Antique gift: Biloxi’s well-traveled chief administrative officer, Mike Leonard, has worn his share of hats over the years, even a firefighter”s helmet. Leonard donated an antique helmet to the West End Hose Co. No. 3, the city’s fire museum today. To see photos, click here.