GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The impression some first time visitors have to Gulfport is heading south from the airport down Highway 49. It is not a very attractive first image. What they see is a proliferation of signage, power poles and billboards.
Mayor George Schloegel is convinced the city can do better.
He points to a deal between the city and the large outdoor sign company, Lamar. The city will allow them to erect some electronic billboards, but with restrictions.
"They have agreed for every electronic sign that they install in the places permitted, to remove six existing billboards in our city," the mayor said.
Another sign of progress is the city's environmental court, created less than a year ago to get people with derelict properties to clean them up.
"We have had about 3,600 corrections made through environmental court, and all but 60 were made voluntarily, once we notified the owner that we had a problem," Schloegel said.
The mayor pointed out that inspectors are going through block by block, finding what structures need to be dealt with and notifying the owners to get it fixed.
The Markham Hotel is one major eyesore problem the city is still working to resolve. Once a landmark, the building now sits empty and decaying. The building has been condemned, but the owner has taken the city to court.
Mayor Schloegel said getting that case resolved is a top priority.
As of January 3, 2011, the city will also have a 311 phone line. Anyone who wishes can simply call 311 and be connected directly with the city.
The mayor, who insists he will only serve for one term, told us he is pleased with the progress being made. Nevertheless, he also conceded there is a long way to go.