GCN Exclusive Report
Hancock County – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Hancock County is now in a transition period. Some things have gone well, but others have gone horribly wrong. What does that mean to its residents? More aggravation, frustration and staring down some tough decisions.
By Mark Proulx - Special to GCN Filed 11/7/06
A benefit dinner was held on Saturday, October 28th at the Hollywood Casino in Bay St. Louis. It was called “Hooray for the Bay” and was sponsored by Our Lady’s Academy school to raise money for rebuilding. I can’t say how much money was raised, but the dinner was a veritable Who’s Who of Hancock County. The guest of honor was Kathleen Koch, once a resident of Bay St. Louis and CNN correspondent who has made it a crusade to champion Hancock County, reminding the visual world how bad it is still through her “Saving My Town” series.
Kathleen asked me if I would escort her to the dinner, as her husband had family matters to attend to. Kathleen and I have a history of growing up when the old Bay St. Louis still stood and I was honored to be there for her. (Just to confess, as I did at the dinner, I had a crush on Kathie way back when and used to frequent her parent’s ice cream parlor just to see her.)
It was good to see her after all this time, as well as make some new acquaintances, Sitting next to me was David Treutel, and believe me we got into some good conversations, seeing how he’s been a featured speaker in Washington and around the country speaking about insurance changes that need to happen. To my left was Dave Vincent, from WLOX-TV. We had quite a lot to talk about when it came to how much the real world was getting outside of the gulf coast regarding how bad it still was.
I realize that on the surface it looks like I’m reporting about a social event only…but consider.
These are the movers and shakers of our society…and even they had issues. David Treutel has been foaming at the mouth trying to get Congress to understand exactly what the problems are regarding the insurance industry…while still working within the industry. Dave Vincent, the news director for WLOX has been fighting valiantly to get the word out about the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast on both the air and through the WLOX website. Kathleen has been fighting an uphill battle simply to report on the Mississippi Gulf Coast because her superiors feel its not “newsworthy” anymore.
The other bankers, lawyers, doctors and businessmen and women are struggling to keep what they have and are using every ounce of their influence to save the Gulf Coast. This dinner, I found, was a wonderful way for the people of influence to finally relax…even for a couple of hours, recharge their batteries and lean on a few shoulders. Honestly, I have never seen so many business owners and people of influence simply breathe a sign of collective relief and lean on each other…even for one night.
More good news is that
there are some wonderfully optimistic people who are rebuilding, but there
are so many more that will not return. Coleman Avenue, the old downtown
was totally gone and rebuilding is scheduled, but so far only one building
has been rebuilt. The street is slated for renewal and City Hall has been
approved for reconstruction which should begin around the first of the
year. This will give many hope and an incentive to move forward. The
condos at the Beach and Coleman Avenue
are being rebuilt.
Millions and millions pounds of debris have been cleared by the Army Corps of Engineers and local debris haulers. FEMA and local governments still work to resolve never before disaster considerations. Katrina created a whole new set of issues for governments and individuals to contemplate. And there are more issues cropping up each day. For instance, where do we put people who would be otherwise homeless that now reside in FEMA trailers? As areas are cleared, how do we protect ourselves from big developers and large scale developments to our once small town? Can we protect ourselves? How does a small town government with small town worries and big town expenses survive?
I also received this from Kathy Pinn, who had been working as the Donations Coordinator and PR person for the City of Waveland. If I told you it didn’t hurt to read this, I’d be lying.
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