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Biloxi City Council moves on boardwalk, Keesler gate and Saenger repairs

Built in 1929, the Saenger Theatre was purchased by the city of Biloxi in 1975. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 damaged the roof and wrecked the newly completed faux-finish paintwork. Water continues to take its toll; a current restoration estimate is $500,000 to stop the leaks and restore the plaster and paintwork.
Built in 1929, the Saenger Theatre was purchased by the city of Biloxi in 1975. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 damaged the roof and wrecked the newly completed faux-finish paintwork. Water continues to take its toll; a current restoration estimate is $500,000 to stop the leaks and restore the plaster and paintwork. Sun Herald File

The City Council spent money, saved money and questioned the mayor’s change in the budget process at the regular Tuesday meeting.

The council members approved:

▪  A $5 million grant from the state to start the design of a new main gate at Keesler Air Force Base on Division Street. “It’s much needed,” Councilman Felix Gines said. “We know that Keesler does not have an approved DOD (Department of Defense) gate,” he said, which is something that is needed to increase chances of keeping the base off the Base Realignment And Closure Commission list.

▪  A $700,000 Tidelands grant that, along with a $300,000 grant to Harrison County, will start construction of a West Biloxi Boardwalk.

▪  A $100,000 grant from the Department of Archives and History to make repairs to the roof of the Saenger Theatre.

▪  A $14,000 contribution to team up with Coast Transit Authority for a study on whether a pedestrian bridge should be built from the foot of Rue Magnolia over U.S. 90 to between the Beau Rivage and Hard Rock casinos. The biggest issue causing problems with traffic flow are the number of pedestrians on 90, said Cliff Kirkland, the city’s civic innovation and development officer. The traffic lights are synchronized, he said, but are interrupted every time a pedestrian pushes the button to cross the road.

▪  Agreed to pay city attorney Gerald Blessey $5,000 for his work on refinancing tax-increment bonds in partnership with the county. The last time the city refinanced a TIF bond, the legal costs were $50,000. “Yes, it’s 10 percent of what we paid last time,” Blessey said.

Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich told the council he is meeting with the heads of each department and will have the first draft of the fiscal year budget ready Aug. 16 for the council to review.

Council President Robert Deming III asked why the process is different than in past years, when the council met with all the department heads.

“This is ultimately the council’s budget to approve,” Deming said.

Gilich left the room and returned with spreadsheets that show the amount spent by every department and the breakdown of how it was spent.

“In a couple of pages we’ll describe the whole operation of the city,” he said.

Deming said the council needs more than numbers and needs to talk directly to the heads of the department.

The first budget workshop was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Aug. 16.

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