Update on restoration of historic properties

Here are Mayor A.J. Holloway’s remarks, as prepared, for “Breakfast with the Mayor,” a Biloxi Chamber of Commerce event on Dec. 1, 2009 at Biloxi Regional Medical Center.

—I hope all of you had a Happy Thanksgiving, and I wish you the best in this holiday season and into the New Year.

—This morning I want to give you an update on a number of projects, and I’ll take your questions.

—We all know how important history is in Biloxi, and how many of our historic homes and buildings we lost. So, I’m happy to say that we have work underway on nearly a dozen historic properties.

—Here’s a quick rundown:

—At the Old Brick House, contractors have removed the damaged portions and have shored up the structure. All floor beams have been re-set, and contractors are now working on the masonry restoration.

—Our biggest challenge is finding bricks to match the existing bricks. The restoration work has a budget of $636,000 and an expected completion of August, but I know it’s going to take a little longer because right now it looks like we’re going to be a few bricks short of a full Brick House.

—At the Magnolia Hotel, work is underway on a $592,000 restoration project. Contractors are doing roofing work right now, and restoring the porches. They’re also replacing the floor beams inside the structure. All of the work is scheduled to be completed in June.

—We met with J.O. Collins Contracting yesterday about the Biloxi Lighthouse. Work on this $413,000 project is almost complete, but we have a change order on the agenda today for some additional masonry work that was not covered under the original contract. This work will probably add about 20 days, meaning it will all be done in mid-January.

—J.O. Collins also has the contract for a $113,000 restoration of another of our high profile landmarks, the White House fountain. This 105-day project should be starting in the next couple of weeks and will see the fountain restored to its pre-Katrina condition.

—Wednesday, we are opening bids for restoration of the Fire Museum and for exterior work on the Swetman House. The fire museum has a budget of $107,000 and the exterior work at the Swetman House has a budget of $247,000. I hope to get both projects started in January.

—The exterior work on the Saenger will go out to bid in January with construction underway in March. This project has a budget of $183,000. The interior work is scheduled to be bid in June with construction to begin in July or August. We are allowing for time between the exterior and interior work to make sure that all the leaks are addressed before the plaster work is repaired.

—The contractor who will do the $625,000 restoration of City Hall was given a notice to proceed on Monday. Work ought to begin in the next week. This 9-month project will see City Hall restored to its original splendor. The initial phase of the work will be to tear out the old carpeting and remove the damaged plaster throughout the building.

—The Visitors Center at Lighthouse Park is currently a little ahead of schedule with the foundation of the building being currently constructed. The foundation walls should be complete by the end of January.

—This project is about two weeks ahead of schedule. As work progresses, it will become more evident to you why we’re calling this Lighthouse Park. There will be a good deal of green space between the highway and this new building, which will make the building that much more inviting. This Visitors Center, by the way, has an overall budget of about $10 million.

—Over at the civic center and library on Howard Avenue, the contractor is not quite as far along. The property will be at finished grade in the next few days, weather permitting. Once that is accomplished, the contractor will immediately begin work on the foundation. Right now, the project is about 30 days behind schedule but I’m hoping that the contractor can make that up over the next 18 months. This project, by the way, has a budget of nearly $20 million.

—Some of you who drive Beach Boulevard may have seen a good deal of work underway on private property, mainly the removal of derelict slabs.

—I congratulate our Code Enforcement staff on helping convince property owners to get to work on removing these eyesores.

—The City Council had passed a moratorium that kept us from taking action on this but since that moratorium expired on Oct. 1, we’ve been contacting owners of properties where these foundations existed, and we’re seeing work being done to remove these eyesores.

—In fact, we’ve issued 12 permits, and in 11 cases, the property owners are clearing the property right now, and the 12th one is expected to begin shortly.

—Among the high-profile foundations being removed are those at the site of the storm-destroyed St. Charles condominiums on west beach, the old ervice station at Rodenberg and a former apartment complex at Seal Avenue and U.S. 90.

—As far as roadwork is concerned, we’ve overlayed major intersections on Howard Avenue to hold them over until we get federal approvals on our massive citywide infrastructure work. We’ve hit a few snags on that. We’re being told by FEMA now that they want to us re-examine all of the waterlines, sewer lines and drainage lines under the impacted areas.

—Out on Brodie Road, we’re on track for a completion in September. I appreciate your patience on this. When this $3.5 million project is finished, we’ll have a really nice road.

—That’s quick rundown on some of the major projects. It’s a lot of work, and there’s plenty more to come. Now, let me take some of your questions.