This week, Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway will announce that the city has made deals with three more property owners on Caillavet Street. In the year 2000, Biloxi spent nearly $3 million buying property so the city can widen that street. And before the project is completed another $12 million will be spent.
Mayor Holloway decided three years ago that alleviating traffic congestion in east Biloxi required a wider Caillavet Street. The problem is, in order to do that about 90 property owners had to move.
"Some people are really angry with me and probably will not like me for the rest of their lives and I'm sorry about that," Mayor Holloway said. "I hate to see that, but I'm doing what I think is best for the future of Biloxi."
Despite the difficulties, Mayor Holloway says he's proud of the progress that's been made so far in purchasing properties for the Caillavet Street widening project. Still, one of his opponents says the problems with this project are one of the reasons Holloway should be voted out of office.
"I think it's a bad plan," Republican Michael Janus said. "I think we ought to pull the plug on it. If you look at the traffic counts, 6,900 cars travel Caillavet Street in a given day. Certainly, that does not lend itself to a $20 million five laning with a service road project."
If elected mayor, Janus says he would encourage business owners who have been forced to move to come back to Caillavet Street. He says, so far, the project has only hurt the city.
"You're literally destroying third, fourth generation family businesses," Janus said. "Not only that, but you're running those businesses out of town, which means you're taking away tax base."
Janus does agree with Holloway that some money should be spent to repair the aging street and help revitalize the area. But, Holloway says Caillavet Street is a vital part of a larger traffic plan that includes Bayview Avenue and Oak Street.
"I think it's very critical for the future of Biloxi," Mayor Holloway said. "We're not talking about just right today, but for the long term effect that Caillavet Street's going to have."
Democrat FoFo Gilich agrees with Holloway, at least in part.
"The loop is needed," Gilich said. "We need to move folks and I think the traffic loop, from Ocean Springs bridge down Howard Avenue down Oak Street looping with the bay and tying in Caillavet Street is critical."
But Gilich says he's concerned with the way the Mayor has handled the purchase of Caillavet Street homes and businesses.
"It seems to me that there has been, as I said, an inconsistency in the way that things have been negotiated from one business to the other and has caused some disruption and some concern," Gilich said.
Gilich says if he's elected, he will take a closer look at the project and then decide if all money is really worth it.
By Amanda Jones
Click on the stories below to read some of the history of the Caillavet Street property buyout dispute: