FEMA headquarters in Biloxi undergo major makeover

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – Two buildings that have housed hundreds of government employees look pretty messy right now. Crews have exactly 60 days to convert 70,000 square feet of space into modern office facilities.

"When we get done, everything will be first class.  And they'll move back on February first and go right back to work and never miss a lick," said Coliseum Director Bill Holmes.

The renovations include special office lighting and electrical equipment, along with updated safety features.  The cost is about $1 million.

"It'll all be carpeted, ceilings, walls, all newly renovated executive offices, rest rooms, break areas, sprinkler systems, alarm systems.  All brand new," said Holmes.

The two buildings are located between the Biloxi Walmart and the railroad tracks in Biloxi.  They were originally built as warehouse facilities. In 2006, the Coast Coliseum leased the buildings to FEMA and MEMA for $5 million. The buildings were used as their Katrina recovery complex.

"We originally signed a five-year contract with them. We are in a month-to-month mode with them now," said Holmes.

The contract between the Coliseum and the federal government ends in February of 2011.  Holmes is hoping that all of the upgrades will improve the Coliseum's chances of negotiating a more permanent deal.

"This contract, hopefully, they'll stay another year or two and we'll be able to renegotiate with them. Hopefully they will stay, because it's so important for this hub to stay and remain here on the coast and be the economic generator that it is," said Holmes.

While the buildings are being remodeled, FEMA and MEMA employees have been relocated to the new Convention Center.

When WLOX asked FEMA about future lease negotiations with the Coast Coliseum, FEMA Spokeswoman Marcia Hill sent us this statement:  "Since August 2005, FEMA has committed to helping the state of Mississippi recover from Hurricane Katrina. As we have always said, FEMA is here until the job is done."

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