Thoughts on the third anniversary

Comments from Mayor A.J. Holloway on the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina:

— We’ve issued in the neighborhood of 24,000 permits of one type or another since Hurricane Katrina, valued at more than a billion dollars, but of those 24.000 permits, only 420 have been for new homes. We lost 6,000 homes and businesses to Katrina, so that should give you an indication of how far we have to go.

— The issues remain the same: the cost of insurance, when you can get insurance; the cost of construction, and implications of the higher elevations, which, by the way are still not final.

— One thing to remember is this: This is the third anniversary of the storm; this is not the third anniversary of the rebuilding. When people say third anniversary they tend to overlook the fact that we were digging out of debris and restoring basic services for the first year and a half after the storm. The rebuilding didn’t actually begin until about a year and a half ago.

We’ve seen some tremendous progress:

— Let’s not forget that we removed 3 million cubic yard of debris, a pile large enough to cover a football field and stand about 140 stories high (the Beau Rivage and IP are about 32 stories)

— 12,000 people are working in the casino resort industry today, most of them in Biloxi. Plus other service jobs.

— The re-opening of the Biloxi Bay Bridge, and how it’s been received by the public

— The total re-lighting of U.S. 90 in Biloxi – more street lights than even, about 400 on the 8 mile stretch in Biloxi

— Keesler is making outstanding progress on the largest military housing construction program in the history of the Air Force. $287 million to build more than a thousand units. Overall, Keesler is spending $950 million toward reconstruction.

— The restoration and improvements at the Biloxi Community Center, which is a popular place for carnival balls, wedding receptions and special events.

— In the next several weeks, we’ll be approaching the City Council for approval of a $355 million project that will see the repair or replacement of all the streets, curbs, sidewalks, water wells and lift stations that were in the Katrina storm surge. In essence, if it went underwater, we’re replacing it. Most of the work will be in the oldest parts of the city.

— This project is expected to take several years and we full expect the price could approach $500 million when all is said and done. This will be the largest public work project in the history of Biloxi. To put it in context for you, we were averaging $16 million a year on major improvement projects each year before the storm. Now, we’re looking at $355 million. If you do the math, that would take 22 years. We’re looking to do it in 5 to 6 years. The good news is that we’ll have brand new roads and infrastructure that will serve us well for the next 50 to 60 years.

— I also want to say thank you to the people of Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast for how they’ve dealt with things over the past 36 months. They’ve done it with dignity and compassion. It makes me proud to serve as mayor of Biloxi.