BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - James Crowell is a man on a mission. Transform east Biloxi from an empty desolate spot on the map into the vibrant neighborhood is was before Hurricane Katrina struck.
It starts with better infrastructure, something he says was promised years ago.
"There's a water and sewage drainage project that's been on the paper for more than seven years," Crowell said. "It still hasn't started and we know that there will not be anyone moving in here until that infrastructure project is completed."
He claims east Biloxi has been forgotten. People at city hall disagree.
"Not true, not true. First of all, we've always been very proactive in funding non-profit and housing advocacies in east Biloxi," Director of Administration David Staehling explained. "We fund the Back Bay Mission. We give them $110,000 a year to rehab sub-standard housing."
Crowell has also been critical of the recently completed $20 million Salvation Army Kroc Center in East Biloxi, saying the center has not done enough community outreach.
Center officials say that's simply not true. They offer scholarships and plenty of free programs for men, women, and children. And Kroc Center Operations Director Erin Darche' said they'd like to do even more.
"Mr. Crowell, I would love to meet with him just to talk about," Darche' said. "He has a pulse on the community that maybe we don't have. Maybe he can help us reach out to those people who don't know what we have to offer. We want everyone to feel welcome at the Salvation Army Kroc Center, that's our goal."
At a new east Biloxi salon and barber business, Shaun Edwards reflects on what he feels the priorities should be for the city moving forward.
"More can be done for the area, considering the damage that Katrina had done," Edwards said. "I mean, we can always use more small businesses. I feel like they focus so much on just casinos when we need small businesses to help the community grow also."
City officials do say a major infrastructure project for east Biloxi will be getting underway in the near future, including roads and drainage. Bids should be taken in the next 90 days, and work could begin as early as the beginning of the year.