Ocean Springs Harbormaster's Office open for business

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Another major milestone in our Hurricane Katrina recovery was reached in Ocean Springs Tuesday as officials cut the ribbon opening a new Harbormaster's Office. It replaces the building washed away in August 2005.

The building was dedicated in honor of Brad Lemon, a long time harbor commissioner and city aldermen. His reaction was typical of a man who always praises others.

"A lot of folks went into this building to get it off the ground and get it started," Lemon said. "I'd say it was a joint effort way more than it was anything else."

Inside, it's first class all the way with a large meeting room, plenty of office space, and a fully functioning kitchen.

Following Hurricane Katrina, county officials promised to build back bigger and better than before the storm. Tangible proof of that can now be found in the Harbormaster's Office. Before Katrina, there were no laundry facilities for transient boaters. Now there are.

"We had some opportunities after the storm that allowed us to build back with something that would certainly be an asset, not only for the harbor, but for the community," Jackson County Supervisor Manley Barton said.

The office is built to last with 28 concrete pilings forming the building's foundation. The office's floor is 20 feet above "mean sea level" which is eight feet above ground level at the site.

Those who use the harbor on a regular basis have never seen anything like it. Officials with MEMA praised the effort it took to make this building a reality.

"This is just another testimony of resolve for the citizens of Jackson County to overcome the adversity of Katrina," MEMA's Clayton French said.

And with Katrina memories slowly fading away, it's time to make new memories in this new facility.

It took 11 months of construction to complete the 3,000 sq. ft. floor plan. The $830,000 project is being paid fully through FEMA recovery funds.

Other harbor improvements are also in the works, including replacing the bulkhead, and repaving the road that leads through the harbor.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.