Biloxi debates how to divide money among wards for road work

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Biloxi is looking to borrow $14 million for drainage improvements, but just how to divide that money is sparking a debate among city councilmen. Some leaders said they believe the fairest way to split the money isn't the most practical.

On sunny days, it's easy to drive down through Suburban Acres subdivision in West Biloxi. When the rain comes, the streets turn into a giant lake.

"Every time it rains, and it doesn't even have to be a bad rain, the streets are covered," said Biloxi Council Member Lucy Denton. "Public works have gone out there and cleaned the drains and tried to help people out, but it's not enough. My biggest concern are the streets that are flooding. Folks are having a hard time getting their children on the school bus. It's that type of problem I want to see us resolve."

Neighbors blame the construction of an apartment development and drainage pipes that are too small for the mess.

"I'd like for them to put another pipe out there. Bigger. Take care of their drainage," said resident Charles Parker. "This ain't the only rain we're going to ever get. There's going to come some more and I want it fixed."

What gets fixed hasn't yet been decided. At a special meeting Tuesday, each council member came with a list of needed projects.

Ward 4's Arlene Wall said, "I think the money should be divided among the wards. I know that River Place had had all this engineering done. And when the crisis came with the budget, that whole subdivision just got laid aside and just shelved permanently."

Some leaders would rather base the decision of how to split the proposed bond money on the greatest need, rather than ward lines. If there was an equal division, each ward would receive $2 million.

"If you divided it up equally between the wards you basically will not scratch the surface of all the wards because there's that much to be done. On the other hand, that's maybe the fairest way to do it," said Council Member Clark Griffith. "Another way to do it is to take a look at everything that needs to be done. Let's go from this is number one priority, this is number two, this is number three. You can cross ward lines when you do that. So it's just going to be real, real hard."

"With the money we have, we need to attack the ones that have the worst problem and that's kind of always been my approach in city government. Not just my ward, but what's best for the whole city," Denton said.

Selling the whole city approach may be difficult, as some council members said they want their wards to get an equal share of the proposed $14 million bond. Biloxi officials say the money the city is considering borrowing would only be used for streets that won't be covered as part of $355 million FEMA is paying for Katrina infrastructure repairs.

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