Gulfport leaders frustrated by pier repair delays

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Tony Miller spends almost every day after work baiting hooks and casting lines.  "When you want to relax, just get you a fishing pole and go fishing," said Miller while fishing on Thursday afternoon in Gulfport.  "When you got things on your mind, it's good therapy.  When you're catching something, it's more fun."

But for more than a year, Miller hasn't been able to go to his favorite fishing spot, Moses Pier.  "You just walk out there, get you some bait and tackle," said Miller.

Three other piers, Urie Pier, Ken Combs Pier and Westside Pier, are also closed. They're blocked off by barricades, still showing the damages of a storm that struck in August of 2012. Mayor Billy Hewes calls it an injustice.

"It should not have languished for this amount of time," said Mayor Hewes. "And I understand that we're worried about a sensitive habitat, but this is really kind of the height of insensitivity."

Mayor Hewes said FEMA has been holding up approval of the funds to rebuild. So, this week city leaders sought help elsewhere.

"Sending letters to our entire congressional delegation," said Mayor Hewes. "To Senator Wicker to Senator Cochran to Congressman Palazzo. We're enlisting their help to try and get the attention of the folks at NOAA, at FEMA."

The two page letter expresses the problems the city has been dealing with. One sentence reads, "The City is frustrated and disappointed by the lack of progress from FEMA."

It goes on to say, "The City formally requests your office to inquire as to the status of FEMA's approval of the City of Gulfport's project worksheet for repairs of the City piers."

According to the mayor, "We're not building any type of new structure, We're just trying to repair what we have in place."

Until Moses Pier is reopened, you'll find Miller at the end of the pier, casting his line, waiting to get his favorite spot back.

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