‘First in, last out’
The Biloxi Public Works Department covers a lot of ground. Water, sewer, building maintenance, streets and drainage, signs, construction maintenance, city engineering, rights-of-way, drainage and bridge maintenance are all part of the Public Works Department. Also included are an administrative division and a vehicle garage.
The department employs 110 people and is based out of a new facility at 780 Esters Blvd.
Currently, the department’s largest project is a $355 million infrastructure rebuild, particularly in East Biloxi. In this project, new roads, sidewalks, sewer lines, water lines and storm water drains are being built in order to replace those damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The majority of this work is expected to be completed by 2018.
“For all practical purposes, we’re going to be rebuilding the east end of Biloxi,” said Dan Gaillet, Biloxi’s Public works director since November of 2013.
Regardless of what major projects are in progress, the department needs citizens to keep them aware of infrastructure issues so that they can be repaired in a prompt manner. Gaillet explained that the department does not have anyone actively looking for these smaller issues (potholes, drainage problems, downed signs, etc.), and relies on citizens to report them.
“I think that citizens do a good job of letting us know when there are issues out there,” Gaillet said. They kind of become the eyes for the department.”
Because of the nature of the department’s work, cooperation with many outside agencies is mandatory. On the current infrastructure project, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency are playing a large role. Also, the city’s water supply is constantly monitored by the Health Department. Any chemical spills in the city are reported to the Department of Environmental Quality. Usually, when the department has to work with a federal agency, it is handled through the corresponding state agency.
When asked what he is proudest of about his department, Gaillet immediately said that it is the dedication of his workers. He mentioned that his crews work hard, and are often not recognized for the job they do. He said that the department is a 24/7 operation as well, and that regardless of what might happen, regardless of when it does, a crew would go fix it.
He also mentioned exactly how important his department’s job is, saying that they maintain the roads for the police to drive on and keep the water flowing so that the fire department can do its job.
“Public works is the backbone of the city,” Gaillet said. “Without public works, the city wouldn’t operate.”
The Biloxi Public Works Department can be contacted at 228-435-6271.
–Charlie Benton, Public Affairs intern, 7/2015