Harrison County

Biloxi got some money for Festival Boardwalk and is going after more

JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD/FILEBeach visitors enjoy the boardwalk in Biloxi in 2009. The city was awarded $700,000 of its $3 million request for Tidelands money to build a West Biloxi Festival Boardwalk that would run along the water from about Veterans to Rodenberg avenues.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD/FILEBeach visitors enjoy the boardwalk in Biloxi in 2009. The city was awarded $700,000 of its $3 million request for Tidelands money to build a West Biloxi Festival Boardwalk that would run along the water from about Veterans to Rodenberg avenues. SUN HERALD

BILOXI -- They city's lobbyist said Biloxi had a number of successes and some disappointments from Jackson in this year's legislative session.

The city was awarded $700,000 of the $3 million requested Tidelands grant for the first phase of the West Biloxi Festival Boardwalk, said Scott Levanway, who was hired to lobby in Jackson for the city's interests. An additional $300,000 was awarded to Harrison County to help build the $4.5 million boardwalk that will run along the water near Restaurant Row, with parking and places for entertainment and festivals along the way.

The Tidelands fund is paid by casinos and other businesses on the waterfront, many of them in Biloxi. Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich said the city submitted $14.4 million in requests and got $700,000. July 1 is the deadline to resubmit and he said Biloxi will send in all the requests again.

"Our projects have a solid base," Gilich said, and city attorney Gerald Blessey said Biloxi is one of the only municipalities submitting economic-development projects that will generate more sales-tax money to send to Jackson.

Nothing happened on Gilich's Gulf Coast Broadband Initiative, which many of the Coast cities and counties joined in an effort to bring ultra-high-speed internet to South Mississippi, Levanway said.

But an Economic Development and Infrastructure Fund was created for counties with casinos. He said $2.5 million was transferred into the fund to help get low-cost air service to Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport.

"Throughout most of the session, this fund was to be supported by the Gaming Roads Bond Sinking Fund excess funds after payment of bond obligations," he said in his report to the Biloxi council. That money originally was to build roads in counties that have casinos, but now directs the money to roads throughout the state.

Senate Bill 2924 provided the $2.5 million from BP state economic damages. The same BP money provided $5 million to build a new Keesler main gate off division Street, he said.

Levanway also reported:

-- Biloxi, Gulfport and Ocean Springs will meet Thursday with the Department of Revenue and Alcoholic Beverage Control Division to learn about creating districts where alcoholic beverages can be removed from the premises as long as they remain in the district, which, thanks to passage of HB 1223, now is permitted.

-- One of biggest disappointments for Biloxi was the defeat of SB 2146, which would have increased sales-tax revenue diversions to local municipalities from 18.5 to 20 percent. "It would have been a huge boon for the city if we had gotten it," he said. "It looked like it was a sure thing."

-- The Historic Tax Credit program and the Tourism Tax Credit were extended.

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