Long Beach Building Back South Of The Tracks

Any day now. That's when work will begin to restore water and sewer south of the tracks in Long Beach. Mayor Billy Skellie offered that good news on Monday when WLOX News asked him about rebuilding efforts in his city almost 15 months after Katrina tried to wipe Long Beach off the map.

After more than a year of little activity, it seems a section of Long Beach hard hit by Katrina is re-emerging. Not everyone is waiting on infrastructure upgrades to start the rebuilding process.

John Scranage says an insurance dispute gave him a slow start in the rebuilding process, but when work on his Long Beach home did begin, it took off. Sunday he had a slab. By noon Monday, the roof was going on.

"They started framing this house yesterday morning. Sunday morning," said Scranage of the crew building his home. "Working on Sunday was a shock to us."

On the other side of East Third Street, Mark Cutter's crew was busy framing a house. It's their second in the neighborhood in the last two weeks. Cutter thinks he knows what is helping build people's confidence about coming back south of the tracks.

"Because everybody was talking about a bad hurricane season," said Cutter. "We didn't really have a bad season, so I think that kind of made people want to come back to this area. People are starting to build back."

With each new house, neighbors say they grow more confident that this area will be built back as good, if not better, than what it was before Katrina. When that will happen, they say, mostly depends on first restoring services.

Scranage said, "I think as soon as Long Beach gets the infrastructure back - the utilities, the sewer, water and electricity - that you'll see a lot more building. But again, that depends on finances. That's the biggest factor that we have right now."

"If you were here before, then you knew exactly how it was thriving and now it's starting to come back and that really lifts peoples' spirits up," said Cutter.