Mayor A.J. Holloway announced Thursday that Biloxi’s construction management program has major road projects running ahead of schedule, and, reinforcing his longstanding position not to allow anything to jeopardize the missions of Keesler Air Force Base, the mayor announced the appointment of a retired three-star general who is a former Keesler commander, to help efforts to prepare for the next round of Base Realignment and Closure hearings in 2005.
The announcements were made in the mayor’s annual State of the City address, which was delivered to a standing-room-only audience of more than 450 at the Isle of Capri. In his 20-minute speech, Holloway updated residents on a wide array of projects and initiatives throughout the city, but he focused on Keesler Air Force Base and progress on the road projects.
He announced the appointment of Lt. Gen. Clark Griffith, one of 10,000 local military retirees, “to work with our congressional delegation, with chambers of commerce and others protecting our interests and the interests of Keesler Air Force Base.”
Said Holloway: “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again and again: As Mayor, I am not going to allow anything to occur that would jeopardize the missions of Keesler Air Force Base. Nor do I think the members of this City Council would allow anything to occur to jeopardize Keesler or any of its missions.
“But I, like others in this community, realize that we must still be leery of the next round of BRAC hearings, which are set for 2005.”
During his speech, the mayor said that the city invested $19.6 million on major improvement projects since January 2002.
On the city’s multi-million traffic improvement projects, Holloway announced that work is ahead in schedule in some areas.
- The widening of Popp’s Ferry Road could be finished as early as June, two months ahead of its 12-month schedule, and the traffic detours now in place may end in March or April. The mayor also said the city is considering merging two phases of the project – widening between the causeway and Margaret Sherry Library, and from the library to Jam Lane – into one project, if it saves time and money.
- On the new Bayview Avenue, the mayor announced that a significant portion of the new roadway is scheduled to open March 15, and the overall 1.25-mile project, which includes three bridges, will be completed “on time, despite setbacks caused by a hurricane, three tropical storms and a number of underground obstructions.”
- On Caillavet Street, work to widen nearby Anglada Street will begin within 30 days, and in 60 to 90 days the city will begin advertising for a project to improve drainage on Caillavet Street and in neighborhoods to the east.
In the area of parks and recreation, the mayor noted that the city continues to see record levels of participation, with the Biloxi soccer league now the third largest in the state, with 1,400 young players.
He pointed out the city’s $10 million sports complex is under construction, and he made another push for continued cooperation from Harrison County to use tax dollars collected in Biloxi on Biloxi projects, such as a proposed Little League facet of the sports complex.
Holloway also announced that the city is making progress on its efforts to improve its historic structures and museums:
- The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum will dedicate a $2 million expansion and new exhibits, including the Wade Guice Hurricane Museum, next month.
- Designs will be unveiled next month for the new Mardi Gras Museum, which is expected to open next year in the Dantzler House, north of the Biloxi Lighthouse.
- The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum reports that it has collected $11.5 million of its $20 million fund-raising goal, and groundbreaking will be in March, with opening of the entire museum in 2005.
- Installation of new seating and restoration of the ceiling at the Saenger Theater are underway, with completion expected before the end of the year.
“You make me proud to be your mayor,” Holloway told the audience. “You make me want to work harder to make this city a better place for you and me, and our children and grandchildren. For that, and for the opportunity and support that you have given me, I say thank you.”