Biloxi Councilman Withdraws Resolutions Challenging City's Annexation
by Keith Burton - GCN 10/23/07
Last week, Fitzpatrick unexpectedly introduced two resolutions that questioned the city's decision in August to annex 12.2 additional square miles of territory to the north and west of D'Iberville. A majority of the city council wisely tabled the issue and today, the measures were on the agenda. But Councilman Fitzpatrick withdrew the resolutions before a full council vote could occur.
During the morning session, Holloway detailed what the city was doing and the money being spent in the existing annexed lands and what he plans for the area under consideration.
"We can be a progressive city with an eye to the future, or we can concentrate only on the past and we can argue about what we’ve done and what we haven’t done," Holloway told the council during the morning workshop. "This issue about growing the size of Biloxi is not about A.J. Holloway and the present members of the City Council. It’s about the future.
"It’s about whether the Biloxi of the future will be boxed in and stagnate or whether we’ll be a city that offers opportunity for growth."
With that, Holloway presented a Power Point presentation on the work and the money the city is expending in Woolmarket. (GCN Photo Right-Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway)
Fitzpatrick, during the afternoon council meeting, said that there was also information from the Attorney General that indicated that his approach to challenge the annexation was incorrect. That the council would have to introduce a resolution withdrawing the August resolution it approved that called for the annexation, and yet another resolution that would have to be acted upon by the council. This would clearly be a difficult task as Fitzpatrick doesn't have the votes to override a certain mayoral veto.
Holloway’s morning report, which covered work in all city departments, showed that Woolmarket residents had paid an average of $930,000 in city property taxes each year while the city spent an average of $4.75 million a year on services in Woolmarket.
Holloway was hoping to convince councilmembers that Biloxi was indeed making progress in Woolmarket, and that the city should continue plans to grow its northeastern boundaries by another 12.2 miles.
After Holloway’s presentation, City Engineer Damon Torricelli outlined ongoing plans to continue water and sewer work in the Woolmarket area.
In all, the city has more than $80 million in water and sewer improvements scheduled for Woolmarket. But the unanswered question, Holloway admitted, is a definite timetable for the work.
“That’s the $61 million question,” Holloway said, referring to the amount of federal funding that has been allocated for the water and sewer work. “What I can say is that we have engineering work underway on these projects. We’ve made recommendations to the Harrison County Utility District for the construction managers, but until the money makes its way to the utility district, it would be difficult to put a timeline on it.”
The council did vote 4-2 Tuesday afternoon to expand the work that is expected to be included in the 12.2 square mile area approved in August. Councilman Charles Harrison, while present at the meeting had stepped out during the vote. The council voted to allow attorneys to apply to the state Public Service Commission to extend water and sewer plans for a larger part of the proposed 12.2-square mile area that would become part of the city.
Some councilmembers, however, have questioned the status of Biloxi’s delivery of services, particularly water and sewer, to the Woolmarket area, a 34-square-mile area that became part of the city in mid-1999. But insiders say the whole controversy is actually payback for the mayor successfully blocking the Tivoli casino rezoning project favored by Fitzpatrick several weeks ago.
Here are the comments that Mayor A.J. Holloway made to the Biloxi City Council at the outset of a meeting on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007, where the issues of annexation – past and present – were discussed. Council members were scheduled to vote Tuesday afternoon on whether to proceed with plans to annex an area 12.2-square mile area northeast of the city.
"This afternoon the City Council will have an important vote that will drive the growth of this city for years to come.
We can be a progressive city with an eye to the future, or we can concentrate only on the past and we can argue about what we’ve done and what we haven’t done.
This issue about growing the size of Biloxi is not about A.J. Holloway and the present members of the City Council. It’s about the future.
It’s about whether the Biloxi of the future will be boxed in and stagnate or whether we’ll be a city that offers opportunity for growth.
Over the past several years, months and weeks, there’s been discussion about what Biloxi has done in the way of providing services in the Woolmarket community.
I remind you that this area became part of the city in mid-1999, almost 8 years ago. To look at it another way, that’s about 96 months. Of course we all know that Katrina hit 25½ months ago.
This morning, I want to give you an overview of what we’ve done, what we’re doing and what we’re going to do in Woolmarket. You’ll hear detailed reports on water and sewer.
After that, I’m going to ask that we go into executive session to discuss what we’re going to do in the proposed annexation area.
Let me add this: To pull back on growing our city at this point in time would be conceding our future to others. We must control our destiny. We must stand up for the people of Biloxi.
I ask that you look at these things with an open mind and that you remember that this is not about you and me. This is about the future."
To see the council's agenda, Click Here