Gilich reaches out to Washington to help move Keesler gate to Division St.

Gilich reaches out to Washington to help move Keesler gate to Division St.

BILOXI, MS (WLOX)

While the murders at armed forces recruiting centers in Chattanooga have spurred recent debates over military security, Keesler Air Force Base and the City of Biloxi have been worried about it for more than 10 years.

The mission of Biloxi Mayor FoFo Gilich to find funding to move the main gate from White Avenue to Division Street went to Washington D.C. last week. The trip also included Biloxi city officials as well as Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes.

Air Force and city officials say there are major security problems that just can't be fixed at White Avenue.
“I can’t go into details, but this gate here does not meet the Air Force requirements for protection of the personnel against the potential terrorist attack,” said base civil engineer Mark “Mo” Malone.

He said moving the gate to Division Street has been a priority for the base for a long time, but funding has always been a problem. However, Gilich’s effort may have worked.

“We were actually encouraged,” said Cliff Kirkland, the city’s Chief of Civic Innovation and Development, who also went to Washington. “We went on a fact finding mission, but I think what we learned was that everyone is on the same page. Everyone shares our concern. They understand the need to have this gate built here at Division Street and Forest Avenue, and everyone's committed to finding the money to do that.”
He’s hoping federal funding can pay for part or all of the more than $30 million estimated cost to Keesler and the city to develop Division Street.

Getting on the budget agenda will take a while. The 2016 budget is already locked in. Discussions for the 2017 budget begin in January. For those on the front lines, sooner is better than later.

“We want to protect not only our GI’s and our government civilians that work here but our visitors, our retirees and anyone who comes to the base for open house or whatever,” Malone said. “And we just feel and know we can do it a lot better with a new anti-terrorism force protection compliant main gate.”

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