Councilman Urges Homeowners To Speed Up Rebuilding

A Biloxi city council member has message for people planning to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina - Don't wait.

Ward two councilman Bill Stallworth says once the city adopts the new, higher FEMA flood elevations for East Biloxi and Point Cadet, construction costs will sore.

He believes that will keep most residents there from being able to afford rebuild.

Stallworth says he's telling everyone he can to start working now to save their neighborhoods.

Hurricane Katrina took Cora Reddix's house but not her love for the East Biloxi neighborhood where she's lived nearly all her life.

If she built her new house as high as FEMA would like it would be nine feet in the air.

The 85-year-old says she doesn't have the money or the stamina to do that.

"Most of the ones that are in the neighborhood are older people," Cora Reddix. "We have a couple of young families, but we're all old. We wouldn't be able to do it."

Biloxi council member Bill Stallworth feels the new guidelines would make it much too difficult for the neighborhoods of East Biloxi and Point Cadet to rebound from the storm.

"Now if a person only has about $80,000 to do a house," said Stallworth. "You're going to spend $20,000 on an elevator. You're going to escalate your values by having to build it higher probably another $15,000 to $20,000 so that leaves you very little to do your home. That won't work."

Stallworth is urging people to get permits and start building under the current guidelines before the city likely adopts the new ones.

"We want you to be able to build back," he said. "If you have taken out a building permit and actually started construction, you're going to be grand fathered in so start that process as soon as possible."

Stallworth says people who can't afford to rebuild will have no other choice but to sell to a commercial developer and he doesn't want to see that happen.

Neither does Cora Reddix. Work will begin on Reddix's new home in the next few weeks.

"I want to be here," said Reddix. "I want to be here."

Stallworth says he would like to see FEMA adjust its policies to allow houses made of stronger materials, like concrete, to be built at a lower height.