Six Months After Katrina:What Bay St. Louis Needs

Mark Proulx   Filed 3/7/06 - Special to GCN

I spoke with Mike Cuevas with the City of Bay St. Louis Tuesday to find out what the city currently needs six months after Katrina. She was kind enough to provide a detailed letter, which follows:

Mike Cuevas - Office of the Mayor -Bay St. Louis

It is officially six months after Katrina and all of you want to know where we are in recovery.  It depends on to whom you speak.  So, since I have been your main contact with the city and its citizens I will speak to you from my vantage point developed from my position and my own visuals. 

 
I am dividing our needs into two categories with commentary.  Please indulge me in the commentary, it helps me stay focused and it relieves some of the tension that builds up trying to make sure that I meet everyone's needs.
 
Recovery is very steady.  Parks are being rebuilt, lots are being cleared, construction goes on every day repairing homes.  New home construction is taking place.  Our small business community is starting over, maybe not in their original location, but they are re-opening.  A new manufacturing business is starting up to produce modular homes, having purchased a large parcel of land, off the beaten path, where Alcan Cable had their operation.  New jobs, new business, faster recovery.
 
Signs of spring are here, the sky is clear, blue and the weather is warming up.  The gnats are back, the grass is growing, churches are overflowing, and all the signs of rebirth surround us everyday. 
 
While so much is good, there are some things that are still in the critical stages of rebuilding.  The emotional aftermath of Katrina is showing up in the schools and the FEMA trailers. 
 
Children are exhibiting the "acting out" stages, many still stare with blank eyes.  Close quarters for families brings on new stress that many do not know how to cope with.
 
 I'm 56, widowed, employed, see the end of the tunnel in having my home repaired, don't have all the problems of "family" life, and I wake up still dazed and confused, have difficulty focusing on the tasks at hand, have a mind and body exhausted from trying to do way too much in any one day.  I can't imagine how families are coping. 
 
What is most evident in Bay Saint Louis is the determination to rebuild.  People are putting aside the emotional stress, relying on their bodies to get them through the day.  We've been told that three years after is the mark when we can no longer deny the devastation, the losses, the weariness of rebuilding.  There are definitely days when I wish the professionals would just go away and don't tell us what we can expect in the way of collapse.
 
CITY NEEDS
 
For the first time I will put the needs of the city first.  We have concentrated so much of our efforts to the recovery of our citizens that we have relied mostly on your good judgment and generosity to support our administration, and you have been more than wonderful and once again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts, because that is the special place you hold for us.
 
Our city's resources are quickly drying up.  There are no purchases being made that are not absolutely essential.  This has been our business effort since Katrina, not just a newly instituted policy.
 
We have been hoarding our money to keep our employees on full time with benefits.  The few employees that have been added to help with the enormous workload are being paid through grant funds for six months only.
 
We have received only a small portion of our insurance settlements and are faced with mounting damage to our historic city hall because the funds to truly secure the building have not been received.  Recent bad weather has blown the Corps-installed blue roof off the building and we do not have the equipment, manpower or financial resources to replace the roof.  Because of its historic nature we are limited in what and type of repairs can be made to the building.
 
Unresolved insurance issues has forced our utility department to "go back to the old days" of reading water and gas meters and recording with paper and pencil, and entering each reading individually.  This is labor intensive and a very slow process with such a small staff.
 
We have received little from FEMA in reimbursements for our expenses, but I've been told it's "on the way".  These unreimbursed expenses have stretched our meager resources to the max.  Some vendors that we have done business with for many, many years can no longer extend us credit.  Some vendors continue to service the city with partial payments and are helping every way they can.
 
What we most feared will shortly become a reality if we don't have some help soon - employee layoffs.  All along the coast, and especially New Orleans, municipal and county employees have been layed off because of the storm.  We have managed to survive layoffs much longer because of our frugality.  However, many employees have volunteered to take reduced pay during the crisis, but desperately need their health and retirement benefits.  Avoiding layoffs has kept our recovery on track.  You can well understand that reducing city employees hampers recovery in a huge way, not just for the city in general, but for our citizens who are working so hard to recover.
 
Public pleas for assistance through the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain were ignored.  Only one Pennsylvania newspaper printed our letter to the editor asking for communities to adopt an employee's salary for one year.  For most of these cities, less than $1 donated by each citizen would pay a salary for a year or more.
 
FEMA has refused to extend paying for the tents and forklift that we use to maintain a local distribution center.  After March 15 we will no longer be able to accept most goods that donors wish to send unless they are very specific and have a specific delivery point. 
 
My litany can go on, but by now you have the picture.  All of you have helped tremendously.  The recent CNN special also helped, but it helped citizens and not the administration and we are truly desperate.
 
There are needs we have for supplies, that if furnished can help us divert our general fund monies to payroll and other city expenses that are not attractive to pay for, like the $75,000 per month we pay for wastewater treatment or the $25,000 a month we pay for street lights. 
 
We also understand that donors want to be specific in their giving, and we certainly understand and have made every effort to be transparent in how monies donated will and have been spent.  We have tried to develop a plan of giving that will help both the donor and the receiver feel good in the end.
 
Employee Relief Fund - donations can be made through the Bay Saint Louis Disaster Relief Fund, with checks earmarked specifically for this use.  Our basic employee salary average is $22,500 per year, not including benefits.  We currently have 105 employees. 
 
Donations to this effort can be made as follows:  Checks made payable to Bay Saint Louis Disaster Relief Fund, check subject line:  Employee Salary Fund and mailed to City of Bay Saint Louis, Attention:  David Kolf, Comptroller, P.O. Box 2550, Bay Saint Louis, MS 39520.
 
Gift Cards to Office Max, Office Depot or any other type of office supply house that will issue a credit to Bay Saint Louis for the purchase of office supplies will be most appreciated.  We normally do business with Quill and have included the account information below. 
 
In combination or in lieu of gift cards or credits the following supplies are needed by the following departments.  Any one wishing to donate printed items (*) can reply to this email and I will mail copies of what we need to have in the way of printed supplies.  Items in bold type are those that are the most needed.  I have divided the department needs in hopes that you will consider adopting the needs of a particular department.
 
MAYOR'S OFFICE
telephone message pads; white legal size writing pads; ink cartridges to fit HP 5160V and HP 7130 copiers, printers, scanners.
 
CITY COUNCIL OFFICE
Legal and letter size copy paper, ink cartridges HPC 5011d and HPC 5010d; standard staple; heavy duty stapler and staples (needed to staple large packets of documents); ink pens, fine point, blue or black ink; scotch tape for desk dispenser; plain white business envelopes; legal size pressboard file folders; dictating cassette tapes (90-120 minutes); Canon imageClass 2300 Copier or similar copier.
 
ADMINISTRATION
Finance/Utility - ink cartridges for printers HP#57/56 or 58 - #94/95 - #49A - #42A
copy machine toner #417-0; receipt books*; utility application cards*; work order books*; meter deposit books*; all size post-it notes; standard staples; scotch tape for dispensers; employment application*; copy paper (letter size); white letter and legal size pads; file folder lables; letter size manila folders; legal size Mead 2503 pressboard folders and the computer program, Quick Books 2006 for five licensed users.
 
Community Affairs - ink cartridges, HPC 5011d, 5010d, 5165a, 6578d, letter size copy paper; letter and legal size manila folders, phone message books, standard staples, post-it notes; standard calculator tape, fine point pens, black, blue and red ink; scotch tape, 81/2 x 10 mailing envelopes, Canon imageClass 2300 copier or similar copier.
 
Building - two HP laset jet printers; two printing calculators with tapes and ribbons; printer cartridges for Brother PC-201 fax machine, HP Laser Jet 1320 printer, Canon GP200S copier; Paper - 2 pkgs. 11"x17", 10 cases letter and 2 cases legal; blue, black and red ink pens; scotch tape; 1 box sheet protectors; 12 boxes letter size folders; 2 boxes orange and 2 boxes blue legal size folders; 12 correction pens, 1 box yellow highlighters; 2 boxes Sharpie black fine point pens; 1 box Sharpie red, bold point pens.  4 Motorola hand held radios, with chargers, HT750 for inspectors; photo id camera and printer to produce contractor and employee identification cards; Canon imageClass 2300 copier, or similar copier.  Mechanical, Plumbing, Electrical, Buiding Permit Cards*; Inspection Log cards* and privilege license applications*.
 
PUBLIC WORKS -
18"-24" aluminum offset pipe wrenches; shovels, weedeaters, mush mowers, blowers, chain saws; safety glasses, safety work gloves; hand cleaner, paper towels, toilet paper, bleach, toilet tissue; universal hydraulic fluid; motor oil; offices supplies to include:  basic letter size manilla folders, colored folders, call out forms*, door hangers*; vinyl binders, 1", 2", 3"; printer cartridges, HP96, 97, 78, 45; Brother ink cartridges, LC41M, LC41C, LC41Y, LC41BK; CD-RW.
 
FIRE -
Blue and black fine point pens; 2 boxes Sharpie fine point black markers; letter size file folders; 4 rolls tape for Dymo Label Manager 150; scotch tape; legal pads, post-it notes; standard staples; 2 boxes letter size copy paper; 1/2 box legal size copy paper, HP 56 and HP 57 print cartridges; ink cartridges for CannonBC20 copy machine, Department letterhead* and envelopes, burn permit books* and incident report books*.
 
POLICE
File lables; correction tape; phone message pads; letter size manila file folders, file folder fasteners, storage boxes, letter and legal size copy paper, white business envelopes; 91/2"x12" and 6"x9" manila envelopes with clasps; sheet protectors, liquid paper; legal pads, yellow, 5"x8" and 81/2" x 11"; Bic mechanical pencils; yellow highlighter pens; black dry erase markers, dry erase cleaner, black sharpie, fine point; 3"x3" post-it notes; packing tape lithium batters for small torches; laser printer cartridge, ML 1710D3; HP 51645A, 51641A; 4127X; C8728A; 1823T; C8727 AN; C1823D; C1816A; fax/copier/scanner cartridges HP C4920A, C4921A, C4922A, C4923A, HP C5011DN, C5010DN.
 
One of our biggest expenses for the city is fuel.  This is critical to our police and fire departments for obvious reasons.
 
Fuel Cards that can be accepted at Shell or Chevron or Fuelman cards that can be accepted for diesel and gasoline, in any amount.  For example, our Fire Department uses approximately 250 gallons of diesel per month and 250 gallons of gasoline.  Any reduction in these costs would be of an enormous help to our finances.
 
Gift/Fuel cards should be mailed to City of Bay Saint Louis, Attention:  David Kolf, Comptroller, P. O. Box 2550, Bay Saint Louis, MS 39521-2550.  Please send the package "Return Receipt Requested" to verify our receipt of the cards.
 
The following is a list of supplies that we need that gift cards can't be used to purchase, but a credit in the name of the City of Bay Saint Louis, MS would be accepted.  If you have another vendor from which the purchase can be made, with and assigned credit, just let me know.
 
McDonald's Hardware
P.O. Box 459
Bay Saint Louis, MS 39520
This is local hardware store where we purchase small items in small numbers that help us finish a project.  Bay Saint Louis has an open account with McDonald's and has had one for more than 100 years.  We do not need more than $1000 in this account at this time or during the next six months.
 
The Sea Coast Echo
P.O. Box 2009
Bay Saint Louis, MS 39521-2009
This is the local newspaper where we are required to publish all of our legal notices.  We do not need more than $500 in this account at this time or during the next six months.
 
Fuelman
Fleetcorp Technologies
P.O. Box 105080
Atlanta, GA 30348-5080
Billing Group Number:  153858
This is the fuel charge account we use for our Police and Fire Department.  Any payments made directly to them will help reduce our outstanding bill and help with future fuel costs.
 
Quill
P.O. Box 94081
Palatine, Il 60094
1-800-789-1331
Account Number C2797779
Quill is the primary source for our office supplies, except printed items.
 
CITIZEN NEEDS
Citizens continue to need building supplies, especially sheetrock, R-13 insulation, Romex wire, and electrical outlets.  Because shipping costs are so high we suggest gift cards to Home Depot, Lowe's or 84 Lumber be sent, or money may be sent to the city's relief fund designated for local supply stores, McDonald's Hardware and Bailey's Lumber (these donations are distributed through a local lottery).  In addition, money can also be sent designated for the following volunteer groups:  Port Townsend Sister City Project; Disastercorps, CityTeam Ministries.
 
Shipping Addresses
Mayor Edward A. Favre - City Council - Community Affairs - Finance/Utility - Building and Public Works Administraton - 1928 Depot Way, Bay Saint Louis, MS 39520
 
Public Works Warehouse - Fire - Police - 310 Old Spanish Trail, Bay Saint Louis, MS 39520
 
Mailing Address - (All Departments), City of Bay Saint Louis, P.O. Box 2550, Bay Saint Louis, MS 39521-2550
 
Contact:  Mike Cuevas, City of Bay Saint Louis, P.O. Box 2550, Bay Saint Louis, MS 39521-2550, 228-463-7120 or by email at bsldepot@yahoo.com.
 
Let me end this very long missive by saying thank you to each of you and the citizens of your communities who have prayed for us, helped us, and are committed to helping us find our way home.  Your support sustains us through all of the bad days and makes the good days brighter.  Your rewards will be many because of generous and kind spirits.