From: City of Biloxi Vincent Creel 8/28/10 GCN
Population pre-Katrina vs. post-Katrina
2005: 50,644 (U.S. Census 2000)
2008: 38,865 (U.S. Census ESTIMATE; definitive numbers will not be available until January or February 2011).
How much FEMA money did Biloxi receive?
FEMA has "obligated" $487.1 million to fund public improvement projects in Biloxi. Of that amount, nearly $70 million was for debris-related, either for debris removal, monitoring or emergency protective measures performed on public buildings in the days, weeks and months after the storm.
The city has roads, parks, recreation facilities, public buildings, piers, and massive infrastructure repairs and replacements.
The majority of the funds obligated to the city -- $358.7 million -- are for water, sewer and drainage projects.
All this is not withstanding the additional $ 29.7 million of insurance deducted from the damage estimates on the FEMA projects.
What are the largest projects paid for by that money?
Memories tend to linger, but the largest project thus far -- about $70 million -- was the debris removal, nearly 3 million cubic yards of debris, enough to cover a football field and stand 144 stories high. It took about 18 months to remove.
Right now, the city of Biloxi has either completed or is nearing completion of a dozen construction projects -- primarily repairing or refurbishing city facilities. Almost every single public facility, and many vehicles and equipment sustained some sort of damage during Katrina; most of the smaller ones are complete.
Among the completed projects: Dredging and repairs to the slips at Biloxi Small Craft Harbor and Point Cadet Marina ($13 million); restoration of Biloxi Community Center ($3.1 million), Biloxi Natatorium ($1.4 million), Port Division administration building ($1.1 million), City Hall ($1.02 million), Biloxi Lighthouse ($493,000), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Municipal Building ($190,000), fire stations at Back Bay ($345,000) and East Biloxi ($393,000), piers at Coliseum ($290,000), and Forrest Avenue ($25,000), Sports complex lighting and fencing ($131,000), and restoration of White Avenue fountain ($123,000).
(GCN File Photo right: Biloxi Lighthouse after restoration)
Two high-profile projects are at the halfway point: the downtown library and civic center, a 72,000-square foot facility on Howard Avenue ($20.5 million) and the Lighthouse Park and Visitors Center, on U.S. 90 north of the Biloxi Lighthouse ($11.4 million).
Among the other projects either under construction, being designed or awaiting FEMA approval: old U.S. 90 fishing bridge at Point Cadet ($5.2 million) museum complex at Tullis site ($7.2 million); Public Works headquarters ($6.5 million), commercial dock facility south of Hard Rock parking garage ($1.9 million), Lighthouse fishing dock at north end of Lee Street ($1.4 million), Old Brick House ($724,000); lighting, fencing and building repairs at city ball parks ($550,000), Lighthouse pier ($332,000), Saenger Theater ($192,000), Biloxi fire museum ($106,000), old ice wharf pier ($37,000).
Are you still waiting on funding for projects?
Yes. Of the $489.5 million in funding, the City of Biloxi has received about a quarter of that; however, that is because of the $358.7 million in infrastructure projects that will be completed and paid out over the next 3 to 4 years.
What government facilities are being/have been rebuilt?
Repairs and replacements to almost all public buildings and facilities were needed after Katrina. All the fire stations, with major and minor repairs are complete; the Biloxi Sports Complex, the Biloxi Natatorium
(GCN file photo right: Biloxi City Hall after restoration, August 2010)
How many schools were damaged? Were they repaired or replaced?
All schools in the district were damaged: 7 elementary schools, the 7th grade school, Biloxi Junior High School, Biloxi High School, and the district's alternative school. Two schools -- Gorenflo and Nichols Elementary schools -- sustained six and eight feet of flood waters, respectively, and another school, Lopez Elementary, sustained a foot of water in one of its wings. All schools were repaired; however, all are not operating because of reduced enrollment -- 22 percent districtwide, and 45 percent down in east Biloxi alone.
How many homes/businesses were lost?
There were 4,773 structures in Biloxi that were either total losses, or were damaged more than 50 percent.
How many properties are being rebuilt?
To date there have been 741 building permits issued for new single family homes
What’s been the biggest change good or bad in your community since Katrina?
We said from the outset that some parts of Biloxi would return quicker than others. Some would take longer, and some, we have come to realize more and more, will never be the way they were.
Casino resorts returned quicker, as we knew they would, and we would have an industry larger than before Katrina were it not for the economic crisis of a couple years ago.
The cost and availability of insurance continues to be a factor, as is the cost of construction that comes with elevating structures, and the cost of property.
What things haven’t been accomplished that the administration thought would or should be done by now... and what’s the challenge to making that happen?
The most disappointing facet of our recovery has been the inability to move forward on the biggest segment of our recovery – the wholesale replacement of damaged infrastructure.
The work, expected to cost about $358.7 million and take several years, will involve the paving of about 100 miles of streets, and the replacement and repair of about 170 miles of sewer and water lines, 60 miles of storm drains, and dozens of lift stations and water wells
We have had to endure mid-stream rules changes from FEMA that have brought our massive infrastructure work to a halt because of changes to the scope of work. Frankly, we should have several projects under construction at this point.
Here is a status report of current projects: