Concerns raised about DMR spending on fishing reef project

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - More than 500 concrete pilings from the demolition of the old Margaritaville will be given to the DMR to use on nearby Katrina reef, located just south of Deer Island.

State Senator Brice Wiggins sent a letter, raising concerns about the DMR spending thousands of dollars on the salvaged concrete.

"I think his concern is that we were going to spend money on the concrete. He wanted to make sure that any kind of final decision that was made with the Grand Casino; that we would be willing to receive concrete if they were willing to give it to us, that we not have an expense of that concrete. And that's what we've done. We're getting this concrete at no expense to the taxpayer," said Jamie Miller, the executive director of the DMR.

Even though the concrete from that demolition site may be free to DMR, there's still the cost of deploying it to the nearby fishing reef.

That contract hasn't been awarded yet, but it's expected to run between $140,000 and $170,000.

Senator Brice Wiggins told WLOX news that whether it's paying for the actual concrete or paying to move the material, his concerns are the same.

"My point is that it's about priorities. DMR has been operating at a deficit and to spend money on something extraneous, I question the priority," said Sen. Wiggins.

The senator's letter says the DMR is in a financial crisis, but the director disagrees.

"I don't think it is right now. I would have described it the same way six months ago or maybe even four months ago. But I think since then, we've brought on a CFO, we've had the Horn team working to really go back and look at our books. And I feel very confident moving forward that we're in a much better financial position," said Miller.

Bids were recently opened for the job of deploying the salvaged concrete to the fishing reef. But the DMR has not yet awarded a contract.

Senator Wiggins also pointed out that the DMR already has an adequate stockpile of concrete to build and sustain the fishing reefs.

The department has more than 24,000 cubic yards of concrete at a storage site along the industrial seaway. That's enough material to fill 30 Olympic sized swimming pools.

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