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Biloxi Council Fails to Reach Consensus on State Using Katrina Housing Money for the State Port

By Keith Burton - GCN   12/18/07

The Biloxi City Council failed to reach a consensus over the state using $600 million of Katrina recovery money to upgrade the state port in Gulfport. The council Tuesday considered asking the Mississippi Development Authority to delay allocating funds for the restoration of the State Port at Gulfport until post-Katrina housing issues are resolved

The resolution was introduced by Councilman Bill Stallworth, also asked that any unspent state homeowners grant funds be used for new and existing housing programs. Housing proponents say the money would be better used as Congress intended, to fund housing for lower and moderate income residents who lost homes as a result of Katrina.

The council vote was 3-3 with Councilman Albert Fayard absent. Voting for the resolution was councilmen Bill Stallworth, Charles Harrison, and Ed Gimmell. Voting nay were councilmen Tom Wall, Mike Fitzpatrick and George Lawrence.

Even though the resolution failed, the vote remained a powerful signal to the Governor that there are major concerns about using the money for the port while there are so many people that still do no have homes more than two years after Katrina.

Many of the homes lost during the hurricane were modest homes, including rental homes and apartments, that have not be replaced since the hurricane blew them away on August 29, 2005. The loss of thousands of these homes have left the area with a severe housing shortage, especially for the elderly and working-class citizens.

Gov. Haley Barbour has consistently said that funding for the restoration of the State Port at Gulfport had been in the state’s Katrina recovery plan since its inception. However, funding at $600 million is considered by critics to be excessive. The port didn't suffer losses of that amount and using the funds in that manner represents a substantial improvement of the port over its pre-Katrina condition.

The issue could come  up again, but not this year. Today was the last city council meeting of the year.

To read the complete Biloxi City Council agenda, click here.

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