Thursday, March 01, 2007

Favre, council plan $16 million ‘make-over’ for Old Town BSL

Bay St. Louis officials have called for bids for a total utility make-over downtown -- a project expected to take two years to complete and cost up to $16 million.
So anxious to get the wheels in motion, City Council members bypassed an offer to view the detailed engineering plans, and opted to put the project out for bids immediately.
Meanwhile, the administration reported that there's a $3.5 million gap in how the city would like to reconstruct the Beach Boulevard roadway in the business district and what federal officials are willing to fund.
The utility work initially involves the area bounded by the CSX tracks, Necaise Street, Highway 90 and South Beach Boulevard. Complete replacement of the hurricane-ravaged natural gas lines, water and sewer pipes, roadway and sidewalks are included.
"We can't tear up all of Bay St. Louis at once, but there will be some significant disruptions," said William D. Lancaster, senior project manager with Neel-Schaffer engineering. Once the work begins this spring, the construction tab will run some $600,000 to $700,000 per month, he said.
His firm has already billed over $109,000 in fees to design the utility replacements.
Meanwhile, Mayor Eddie Favre and Municipal Clerk Harold "Buz" Olsen told council there's a huge disparity between what the administration wants to have Beach Boulevard look like, and what's being funded through the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
There's a firm completion date set of July 2008 for the new Beach Boulevard, said the mayor, "But what it's going to look like, that's still up in the air."
Olsen said federal officials are willing only to replace the roadway destroyed in Katrina. The city wants a wider, more sensible layout.
Also up in the air is funding for the seawall replacement – and whether there will be a temporary one constructed to accommodate the new roadway.
"We're still on target for a July ‘08 completion date, but we have no idea what it's going to be," Olsen said.
Council president James C. Thriffiley III said the uncertainty and wait are costing millions – retailers can't get loans to rebuild under such confusion, and the city is missing huge sales and property tax revenue in the meanwhile.
In a related matter, council saw the final application for $7.8 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to re-do and revitalize the waterfront business district. The city is almost assured of getting the grant at this point.
Jimmy Gouras Urban Planning is charging the city $10,000 for the detailed application.
Project components include buying property at the foot of Main Street – or a city land swap to acquire it. A terraced promenade and beachfront park would be built there.
The city also plans to build a two-level parking garage next to the former Fire Dog Saloon, and tuck it behind retail shops.
(Pictures of the Fire Dog Saloon - 45h and 5th down:

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