Gulfport mayor "disappointed" by response to his clean up letter

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - George Schloegel has drawn a line in the sand. He's giving downtown Gulfport property owners until August 14th to show him how they'll clean their derelict or neglected lots. Otherwise, the mayor says, the city will do the cleaning for them, because he wants to put Katrina in Gulfport's rear view mirror.

Fresh oysters are now on the menu in downtown Gulfport.  Bob Taylor just opened the Half Shell Oyster House at the corner of 13th Street and Highway 49.

"Food and atmosphere and service.  I mean, if you can produce that, they'll come," he said.

But Taylor realizes his entrees have a better chance of succeeding if neighboring property owners spruce up their buildings.

"I see an administration that needs to step up and get on some people's behinds and get some work done," he said.

Last month, new Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel launched an initiative to wipe away Katrina's blemishes once and for all.

Ryan LaFontaine is the city's spokesman.  He said what the mayor wants is for property owners to "begin making a plan, a real plan to remedy the problems."

The administration started its cleanup campaign by asking the owners of storm beaten downtown properties what their plans were for their messy lots.  But just one person responded by the mayor's July 30th deadline.

"That is simply unacceptable," the mayor wrote in a newsletter he e-mails to the public.  "We are very disappointed by the lack of response, which now forces the city to move forward without input from local property owners."

"It was very disappointing," LaFontaine said.

Virgil Gillespie got one of those letters.  He owns a variety of downtown properties, including the old Hill grocery on 23rd Avenue and 14th Street, a building he bought and gutted after the hurricane.  When WLOX News called Gillespie and mentioned the mayor's clean up letter, he said, in a rather terse tone, "I'm the one making the investment. Why can't my city help me out, instead of writing me these ugly letters."

The administration just sent out a second clean up letter.  It says the new deadline to respond to the mayor's clean up request is August 14th.

If that doesn't work, Taylor has an idea for any owner of a derelict property.  "Either make the investment, or let somebody else give it a shot."

Mayor Schloegel's new letter says that after the new deadline, his administration will use any applicable city and state laws to rid the community of any storm damaged properties that appear to be neglected.

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