Bay St. Louis Update
10/24 - City leaders leave metal office trailers behind for a new 31,000-square-foot City Hall.
The city finalized a $3.8 million deal in September to purchase the Coast Electric building on U.S. 90, with plans of centralizing all departments and services.
Buz Olsen, the Bay's chief of operations, expects all city services to move into City Hall before the year is out.
Several city functions have already made the move, including public works and courts, the Planning Commission and the Bay City Council, which will use a conference center across from City Hall on Main Street.
For years the city has held meetings in the small lobby on Court Street, with residents often spilling out onto the sidewalk.
"With the new conference center, there's enough parking, enough seats, and people can finally be comfortable," Olsen said.
Katrina scattered most city departments last year, forcing employees and customers to do business in trailers at the historic train depot.
Coast Electric took possession of the city's trailers as part of the real estate deal and on Monday the company began relocating the mobile offices to its new headquarters in the Kiln.
The Department of Utilities could be the next to make the move from the depot to City Hall, likely sometime after the next Coast Electric billing cycle, according to Olsen.
Mayor Eddie Favre's office is expected to move into City Hall in the next few weeks, and eventually, the police and fire departments could move into what was Coast Electric's engineering building.
Olsen said the city does not expect the move to disrupt services and the city's telephone numbers will remain active.
"This whole situation is very accommodating to everyone," he said. "It was just a really good buy that will give us room to work and room to grow."
Coast Electric hopes to be in its Kiln headquarters by the end of the year and the company plans to announce the location of a new payment and member services facility in Bay St. Louis soon.
Bay approves record $90M budget for '07
By MARY G. SEILEY
Sep 30, 2006, 00:33
At the 11th hour, Bay St. Louis officials have adopted a $90.6 million budget for fiscal 2007. The action came in an unusual Friday afternoon session of City Council, just beating a state deadline for enactment.
The new budget is a record-breaking financial chart, replete with extensive infrastructure reconstruction and financed by a complex combination of loans, grants, and state and local revenues.
It calls for no property tax increases, and it devotes $6 million to personnel, equipment, public facilities and improvements in the newly annexed area.
It also has a raise package that was hammered out behind closed doors Tuesday night. That meeting of council was "recessed" until Friday afternoon, so the council could put its legal stamp of approval on the final spending plan prior to Sept. 30, a state-set budgetary deadline.
Mayor Eddie Favre said raises included in the budget cost about $175,000 – or some $100,000 less than he had proposed to council. He held out hope for additional raises during the year, saying if revenues exceed expectations he would be back asking council to boost some salaries.
Some of the raises, he said, were woefully low, but the city couldn't afford to give as much as the employees deserve. The lowest salaries in the schedule, for manual labor, run $10 an hour, or $20,000 per year.
In addition to the budget, council adopted an unprecedented ordinance, giving council tight controls over salaries. The new ordinance not only details over $5 million in salary costs, but it also requires the mayor to give council written notice of any changes the mayor makes during the year.
Favre said the ordinance follows the dictates of a recent state Attorney General's opinion which cited state law and held that raises Favre had given without notice to council were illegal.
Those raises caused an enormous uproar, as council members felt they had been left out of their most important role in office – controlling the budget. The flap was the beginning of a controversy that ended with the resignation of Bill Carrigee, chief building official.
Even as the ink dried on the massive budget Friday, there were acknowledged variables in its numbers.
For instance, there is no amount listed for the income the city will get if it sells off its Katrina-damaged buildings and other extraneous properties. Since the city has purchased the Coast Electric property at Main and Highway 90 for a central municipal complex, officials are thinking of selling off the old VCJ complex that has housed the police and fire departments.
Likewise, the city won't be needing it's "annex" building on lower Court Street, a former Savings and Loan building that was heavily damaged in Katrina. The city also expects to sell off the Coast Electric "pole" yard property on Turner Street, and the Garden Center on Leonard Street. There's also a potential buyer interested in some land attached to the Coast Electric site, officials said.
Favre said he didn't include surplus property sales in the anticipated revenue columns in part because plans haven't been finalized over the fate of the VCJ complex. The city may want to retain some of that for community usages, say officials.
And the city isn't sure yet how much money it will receive in insurance coverage on its losses. Still, Favre said the city would have a list for review on Tuesday of the properties it plans to put on the market.The exact amount the city will receive from property taxes also is hazy, according to the mayor. Although Tax Assessor Jimmy Ladner has estimated the value of one mill at around $59,000, Favre said he's not at all sure of that estimation. How much revenue the casino will generate is also unclear.
And there's a question whether the city will get to collect property taxes from within the newly annexed area this year or not. That depends on state interpretations of exactly when the annexation was finalized.
It's also unclear whether the city will be forced to start making payments on federal disaster "loans" that have kept it afloat, or whether the congressional delegation will be successful in having those loans forgiven..The new budget includes all capital improvements that the city pledged to make in the area it annexed last year: properties east and west along Highway 603 including the I-10 interchange.
Originally promised over a two- to three-year period, the capital outlays are all shown in this year's new budget. Included among the annexation related purchases is a new fire truck and station, four fully equipped police cars and $1.3 million in public works equipment.
The budget also sets aside $2.5 million for lighting Highway 603, a project officials hope will be funded by the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Plans call for around 300 light poles to illuminate the increasingly busy highway.The budget is so huge in part because it includes over $67 million in federally funded public works projects to rebuild the city's water, sewer and gas systems and a wide range of other Katrina-related damage projects.
Aside from that federal money, which will require a 5 percent city match, the new budget allocates $15.9 million in general fund outlays and $6.8 million in the utility fund.
Since the needs list is long, I couldn't add to that post by placing this with it.
Taken from an article posted 4/9/06 at www.GulfCoastNews.com
The original post:
Work continues on the new Bay St. Louis bridge. City official Les Fillingame said Tuesday the city is being told the project is on schedule and a partial opening is still expected in May 2007. On Tuesday, the draw was exploded on the old bridge, he said.
© 2006 Bay St. Louis Newspapers, Inc.
4/21 By Mark Proulx - Special to GCN Filed 4/21/06
I never doubted that when asked, the American people would come through to help their own. Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought that a simple article would generate so much publicity, bring so much support…and bring so many people together. Here's the latest information from Bay St. Louis city administrator Ms. Mike Cuevas....
“Dear Mark,Wow! Thank you and all the friends you forwarded our email to in reference to the office supply needs for Bay Saint Louis. We have received almost everything we asked you for from so many sources across America. Individuals, communities and World Care (Tuscon, AZ) filled these needs in less than one month.
Overland Park, Kansas Public Works folks sold cakes and sausages and sent over $1000 for our Public Works Department's fuel expenses.
A resident of the Bay credited our McDonald's Hardware account with the $1000 we need to last us through the remainder of the year.
Port Townsend, WA, must have raided every supply store in the area to generate copy paper, pens, correction tapes, coffee pots and two computers. (One computer went to a police officer and the other went to a local business.)
A wonderful couple from NC sent hand held radios, office supplies and a Fuelman credit.
World Care filled in the rest and has another shipment scheduled to come sometime this week.
The list just continues and I don't mean to slight anyone, but I want you to know that the help is coming from all over. Everyday we are blessed with the generosity of the people of this country in ways that we never imagined could happen to this little town that is such a small blip on the radar screen.
Please, please, each of you feel good about yourselves because for every penny you spent on a pencil a city employee has a job for a day longer. We still need help, especially with the rising fuel costs, but you have bought us more time to get our community back on its feet and producing sales tax that will keep us funded so we don't have to continue to ask for help. Just an update to you, and I do hope that you will pass this on to your friends, who may be inclined to continue their help and support.
CityTeam Ministries has started a comprehensive door-to-door needs assessment.
(More about CityTeam - http://www.cityteam.org/
They selected the area of the Bay north of Highway 90 and to date have interviewed 104 families. Of those 104 families only 10 did not need some type of help. So, what we have decided to do, as a partnership, is to start with 10 families and send out to you what their very specific needs are. These families will be the closest to completion of being able to get back in their homes. Each family will be identified by a code number (the Privacy Act, you know). If more than one group adopts a family their donation will be rolled over to the next group who will reach the same stage in due time. Each giver will be acknowledged by the family who receives help and by the City of Bay Saint Louis. I can't give you their names, but they can identify themselves. The families will have been fully vetted before I send out any information to assure donors that these are families legitimately in need.
We have developed a system of assurance, through the efforts of CityTeam and their volunteers, that families receiving help are not just at the food bowl because it's there, but because they are unemployed and without resources and what they receive can be used to supplement the purchases they have to make and direct their resources to getting back in their homes.
Our distribution center is still open, but monitored, and we have virtually eliminated the greed that develops when "free stuff" is made available. As soon as we can get a local grocery up and running the distribution center will reduce its operations so we don't perpetuate dependence. CityTeam has offered and as soon as we can find the local space and local volunteers they will help us set up a food pantry to meet any continuing or new needs.
Loudoun Medical Group (Loudoun County, VA) has helped to locate space for the re-opening of the Coastal Family Health Clinic to serve the uninsured and financially needy find a new "medical home". This partnership is served by LMG, Coastal and Hancock Medical Center. Social workers are at the depot free clinic to help county residents file for whatever type of medical assistance may be available to reduce their costs. The one local pharmacy open in Bay Saint Louis has honored prescriptions at greatly reduced costs to help citizens not have their funds completely depleted by high prescription costs.
(More about Loudoun Medical Group - http://lmgdoctors.com/press_releases.html)
Church affiliated groups, Christian ministries, small towns and large cities and special individuals who just show up on our doorsteps have been so generous and wonderful to our community. As we get back on our feet all of these groups of volunteers who have taken on the big tasks since last September are helping us through the transition of being able to stand back on our own two feet. We don't know how to repay you, except through our prayers, and those you are receiving in abundance.
Please take care and God bless each of you.”
Thank you, a thousand times, thank you to GulfCoastNews.com for publishing the needs list for the city of Bay Saint Louis. The response has been overwhelming. However you have built your readership, GCN has done a great service for the recovery of Bay Saint Louis, its administration and its citizens.To update your readers on how everyone has responded to the needs list, we have received the following help:
From a professor of Luther College, Decora, Iowa: miscellaneous office supplies that addressed some of the needs of the Mayor's office, Building, Administration, and Fire departments. (She cleaned out her supply closet and send the GCN article on to others at the college for them to do the same thing!)
From our sister city, Port Townsend, WA: miscellaneous offices supplies and two computers, one for the city and one for a local business, plus appliances and building materials and bicycles!
From New Jersey resident: a 4th and 5th grade pen pal program started.
From the Katrina Coalition: mental health assistance partnership with CityTeam Ministries.
In addition to the first four hand held radios another donor will be bringing more to us that will be used to replace some lost in the storm for our public works department.
These are some of the blessings we have received from your publication of our needs list. I have been in correspondence with many individuals, city representatives and others who are working on helping us meet the needs list.
Sunday our "Moore Friends for Mississippi" from NC are off loading a truck with supplies for the hospital and schools with two pick up trucks and two copiers for the city.
For the last six months American citizens have helped us every day in every way that they could. It is amazing and overwhelming.Let me stress that every pen, ream of paper, gallon of gas donated to the city of Bay Saint Louis helps to pay the wages of a city worker, keeping his or her family with income and health benefits.
Our list is updated daily as deliveries are received, so we don't ask for more than we need.There have been many offers of books for our schools and libraries. Currently we are "book rich" because our storage space, both in the schools, libraries and FEMA trailers is really limited. The time for book donations will come as our new elementary schools and two rural libraries are replaced.
There are lots of good things going on that encourage me about how quickly we may recover from Katrina. Here's a list of successes:ON THE MEDICAL FRONT
1. Hancock Medical Center is recovering, but they, too, need a faster response from FEMA with funding assistance. The HMC laboratory is now up to full service and a new radiology contract will bring this service back to full time status by the end of April.
In addition we have gained the services of a new, full-time, primary care physician, our out-patient and full surgery department is back at work. While all these notes are good news, we still have a long way to go, but we can confidently tell people they can return home with adequate medical care being provided on a local basis.
2. The search for space for Coastal Family Health to re-open full time is in high gear. Coastal is our resource for medical care for the uninsured or those with limited means. It will take them 7-10 days to get the clinic up and running as soon as we find them a space.
3. The Loudoun Medical Group that has sponsored and staffed our free medical clinic will be working with HMC to locate a medical home for all of our residents who have lost their local physicians due to relocations after Katrina. This partnership is working towards a smooth transition to full time medical care being available to all, regardless of their finanical situation.
4. HMC has re-opened their Kiln and Port Bienville clinics to full time status, to serve the needs of our industrial park employees and rural residents in two areas of Hancock County.
ON THE HOME RECOVERY FRONT
1. With a generous donation from our sister city, Nutley, NJ, 60 citizens recently received $250 gift certificates to either W.A. McDonald or Baily Lumber to purchase needed supplies to rebuild their homes through a local lottery.
2. A second lottery is being planned for gift certificates with donations received from Amherst, MA and other gift cards that have been sent for the Bay's recovery.
3. Volunteers, especially young people, have been pouring in from throughout the country helping with everything that needs to be done to get our people back in their homes as quickly and safely as possible. Members of the Menonite faith put on a roof faster than anyone I've ever seen. Getting a safe roof is the first big construction step to protecting all the work that needs to be done on the interior.
ON THE PERSONAL FRONT
Wednesday, April 5 will go down as a memorable day for me - I got to sleep in a real bed, in my real bedroom, with real floors! This is a major milestone in recovery for me. From a lawn chair on my driveway, to an air mattress in my office, to a 4" foam mattress on plywood in my FEMA trailer to a real bed. I've come a long way in 6+ months! I could do this, thanks to the kindness of strangers who have taken me on as their cause, not because I had the energy to take care of myself.These volunteers have helped me survive, just as all the others who have given of their time and resources. Their care for me allowed me to devote my days to helping my community recover without the distractions of my personal losses. God has blessed us so much, personally and collectively.
Once again, thank you GCN. I'll keep you apprised of our progress. Take care and God bless you all.