Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich today praised Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant for urging the state Legislature to commit $15 million of BP Economic Damages payments to the Keesler Air Force Base Division Street gate project.
“Three days after I took office, Gov. Bryant was kind enough to meet with me to discuss issues important to the City of Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Gilich said. “When I explained to him why a new main gate at Division Street was crucial to ensuring Keesler’s continuing mission, he immediately pledged to do whatever was necessary to assist us. I’m very grateful to Gov. Bryant for following up with his well-reasoned request to the state Legislature for funding. And I respectfully ask our Coastal delegation to successfully negotiate this vital request through the two chambers.”
Since becoming mayor, Gilich has promoted the new Division Street gate as a two-fold necessity: one, to ensure that the base’s main entryway meets the security standards of the Department of Defense and U.S. Air Force; and two, to help strengthen Keesler’s profile under the threat of future Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) initiatives.
In a letter Wednesday to Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn, Gov. Bryant strongly advocated for the $15 million commitment to the new Division Street gate, citing concerns about a possible new round of BRAC in 2019.
“I am writing to request that $15 million from the negotiated settlement for economic damages from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill be set aside to support a new gate and access route on Division Street in Biloxi for Keesler Air Force Base,” the governor’s letter said in part. “Base commanders and local leadership have identified opening a new, secure gate complex on Division Street as a priority. Base security must be taken seriously at all times, but particularly in the post-9/11 era, the real or perceived lack of secure access points could put our military bases at risk for closure.”
Shortly after being elected 10 month ago, Gilich called a meeting of all involved parties who for years had discussed the necessity of a new gate on Division Street. His plan was to develop a unified strategy and get everyone working together, from Mississippi’s Congressional delegation and Keesler commanders to local and state legislators.
“We needed to bring a focus and an action plan to the table, and we did that,” explained Gilich, who credited Myrtis Franke from Senator Cochran’s office with identifying possible funding sources for the project. “Myrtis deserves a lot of credit for her hard work, and I’m very appreciative of Gov. Bryant helping us on the state end,” he said.
Estimates place the cost of a Division Street gate at about $37 million, with the majority of the expense coming outside the gate.
Said Gilich: “The state’s $15 million moves us significantly closer to accomplishing our goal of establishing a secure and qualified entry point to Keesler, which is critical to preserving the base’s mission going forward.”
See the Gov. Bryant’s letter
See photos from a Keesler gate meeting in June
See a conceptual rendering of a new Keesler gateway