“The first 100 days, and managing what’s next”

Here is the prepared text of Mayor A.J. Holloway’s address to the Edgewater Rotary, delivered Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2001 at the Holiday Inn-Coliseum.:

I’m glad to be here today to talk about a few of the issues that we are dealing with at City Hall.

I was looking at my inaugural address the other day. I remember the comment I made at the beginning of the speech attracted more attention than the speech itself.

I looked at Judge Russell, who has sworn me in as Mayor three times now, and I said, “Thank you, Judge Russell, I hope we can do this again in four years.”

Some people laughed. Some people didn’t know if it was a joke or not.

I remember one thing that I said in the speech was that we had a lot of work to do here in Biloxi and that we were up to the challenge.

I gotta tell you I was dead on the money. We’ve dealt with more issues in the last 100 days than we’ve dealt with in a long time. And, yes, we are up to the challenge.

Today, I want to give you a quick review of what we’ve been doing in the 101 days since July 8, when I took the oath of office. And I want to tell you about an important issue that we have coming up.

One of the first things we did when we started the new term was take another look at Caillavet Street. We moved the road over 25 feet to the west, which is going to help us on some of the property acquisition and move this project forward. Right now, we’re moving forward on that project. The new road will be a four-lane boulevard with a neutral ground. We ‘re anxious to begin construction after all of the property is acquired.

Shortly after that, our CAO, David Nichols, decided to go out in the real world and make some money as a consultant. I was sorry to lose David, but I’ve been very pleased with the job that Jim Borsig is doing. He’s been here six weeks and he’s up to speed on what we have going on.

I’m hoping that we’ll be just as fortunate as we move forward in our search for a new police chief. Chief Moffett
loved his job and he loved this city, but he had a great opportunity for himself and his family. At 51, he could retire from the city, draw 2/3rds of his salary, and take a job for $80,000 as chief in Vicksburg. I can’t blame him.

 But we have a great department, and we have some good applicants for the chief’s job. Thursday, in fact, is the first deadline for applications. I’m hoping to begin interviews soon and keep this process moving. I’m very proud of how far our department has come in the past several years. We have integrity. We have respect. Crime has not been an issue in our city, and I want to keep it that way.

We’re moving forward with our land-use and zoning ordinances. You’ve already heard about the parts that help us control and police the adult-oriented businesses. We’re also coming forward with easy-to-understand zoning laws.

This has been a long process, but you have to remember that these ordinances have not been overhauled since the 1950s, a half-century ago. And let me be clear about this: We’re going to be very careful with this. We need to balance the rights of property owners and the welfare of the whole community.

And speaking of balancing acts, that brings me to another issue that we’ve been dealing with in my first 100 days. We’re continuing to negotiate with Secretary of State Eric Clark on doing what’s best for Biloxi at Point Cadet. I want to do something that works for the Isle of Capri and for J.L. Scott.

The Isle is our business partner. They are a good partner. J.L. Scott is also important to the city. We’re getting closer to working things out.

Oh, yea, there was another issue that came up, but I’m sure that most of you forgot about the idea to give 5 million dollars to the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art.

Frankly, I think this project is important to our community. It shows our diversity ‘ the old and the new. It plays to our colorful history. And it’s being built by a world-class architect. In hindsight, the timing could have been better on that initiative, but I still think we need to support this project, but we cannot do it all.

It needs to be a partnership between the city, the state, the federal government, and you, our local business community. Government cannot do it all.

That’s a half-dozen major issues that we’ve been dealing with, and that’s not all of them. We’re working to improve our lift stations in north Biloxi. Last night, we got public input on the plans for the Popp’s Ferry Causeway, and, yesterday, we purchased land in Woolmarket for a new fire station, water tower and other amenities.

We still have our other projects in progress: Edgewater Drive, Crawford Street, Cedar Lake widening and the sports complex off Popp’s Ferry Road to name a few.

There’s one more thing that we’re working on that I wanted to speak to you about today. It’s a process called construction management.

Over the past several years, we have been able to complete millions of dollars of improvements on major streets and drainage projects.

In most cases, we have completely rebuilt streets ‘ from the water, sewer and storm drainage systems all the
way to new curbing, gutters, and, if the particular street didn’t have sidewalks, we added them.

We were also constructing new city facilities. There was the Carl Ohr Fire Station at Back Bay, the Lopez-Quave Public Safety Center, the new Communications Center, the public safety vehicle garage, and, most recently, the Donal Synder Sr. Community Center.

And at the same time, our Public Works Department, which is responsible for overseeing all of these projects, also ran its day-to-day operations, where duties include such chores as trash pickup, cutting grass along rights of way, street
patches AND overseeing our city contracts with BFI and ECO Resources.

Now, we’re preparing to begin more construction on our major traffic improvement program ‘ the Popp’s Ferry Road area, Bayview, and Caillavet.

In all, we have more than 50 million dollars in projects in the budget right now.

Frankly, we have an awesome program of construction confronting us. We have more projects and more major local projects either in the works or pending than any other city in the state of Mississippi. Maybe even in the Southeast.

Your could equate our situation to “a snake trying to swallow a bowling ball.”

We have to use innovation to meet this challenge.

That’s where construction management comes in.

The city will have more control over the work. We’ll make sure that job begins when it’s supposed to begin, that people are on the job everyday, that the work is being done correctly and that it’s being done on time and on budget.

I’m unhappy with projects that are supposed to take 6 months and end up taking a year and six months.

I want more oversight by someone who is in the construction industry, who has more time and capabilities for oversight, and who has a proven record of getting the job done and getting it done on time and on budget.

Frankly, I believe that with construction management, we would not have gotten in the predicament we have at Jam Lane. We cannot afford for this to happen again, particularly on projects like Caillavet, Bayview and Popp’s Ferry.

Some of the local contractors are a little worried about this process. Are we doing away with contractors? No. We’re going to use this new process on the MAJOR jobs, and then they can still bid on facets of the job. Is this process legal? Yes. And, finally, are we cutting into the contractor’s profits on city jobs? No, I don’t think so.

There will still be just as much city work taking place throughout our city. There will still be the same number of jobs. We’ll still be spending the same amount of money on those jobs, but we’ll have more control over deadlines on jobs.

I am hopeful that the City Council will embrace this idea and move forward with it.

Let me make this clear: The focus is on getting work done and getting it done on time and on budget. We should
not lose sight of that. That’s what you expect, and, as your Mayor, my job is to make it happen.

Thank you.