Pascagoula turning dirt on long-awaited projects - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Pascagoula turning dirt on long-awaited projects

By Sylvia Hall – bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Construction workers operate heavy equipment into the evening along Pascagoula's beach. Further north, pipes lie along Shortcut Road are waiting to be lowered into the ground. If you haven't noticed sights like those yet, you might very soon.

"We have been working with about $60 million worth of grant funds since Katrina," said Program Manager Jaci Turner. "Planning took some time, and now, a lot of what we're seeing is a lot of implementation, a lot of construction."

Turner and Community Development Director Harry Schmidt said a multitude of projects that have been in the works for years now are finally coming together. They include Beach Park restrooms, riverfront developments and revamping the old Pascagoula High School, to create senior citizen housing and a city auditorium. Schmidt said construction on the High School project just began.

"They have a $300,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to renovate the auditorium which will be available to public use, so we'll have a new facility for movies, dance recitals, choir concerts," said Schmidt. 

The theater area is projected to hold up to 800 people. Schmidt said the other portion of the school project, senior housing, has already grabbed local attention.

"It's been designated as a Mississippi landmark," said Schmidt. "That's why its use as senior housing is sort of a novel idea, so we can maintain the high school and come up with a new use for the building."

You'll also see plenty of roadwork in coming weeks. Chicot Road was recently paved, and Shortcut Road is scheduled to follow it. 

The city also has plans to upgrade Pascagoula Street and most of Ingalls Avenue soon. Utility work and repaving are also scheduled for Belair Street, Dupont Avenue and others. 

In all, approximately 10 of Pascagoula's thoroughfares are involved in this year's construction effort. City officials ask for patience while they do the work.

"In order to get to where we want to be, we have to put up with the headache," said Schmidt. "But we're going to enjoy it in the long term."

Work on these projects will take place at different points throughout 2010.

"We're not making plans and sticking them on a shelf. We're making plans and taking them out of the ground," said Schmidt.

"This is going to be a fantastic place," said Turner of Pascagoula. "Not that it's not already, but it's going to be amazing."

Many of these projects came from the city's strategic plans from years ago and are part of the new strategic plan the city unveiled last night.

"Some of these projects like Shortcut Road, like Chicot have been in the plans for about 10 years," said Turner. "We were about to go to construction when Katrina hit. We had to slow down; we had to regroup, rebuild everything that had been destroyed And now, we're able to get back and rebuild those things."

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