Mayor Chipper McDermott says getting Wal Mart back in the Pass will bolster city sales tax collections. Pass Christian collected about $40,000 per month before it had Wal Mart. Tax collections jumped to $110,000 per month after Wal Mart opened.
Wal Mart is one of four keys that Mayor McDermott is focused on as the city recovers from Katrina. The most immediate recovery key is underground. Water and sewer improvements are so tantalizingly close to the Pass Christian city line.
But until now, new drains and new pipes along Highway 90 have been on the Long Beach side of the line, just out of the Pass's reach.
"Yes, we get jealous all the time," Pass Christian Mayor Chipper McDermott said with a smile.
But the jealousy over hurricane repairs is about to go away.
Tuesday night, Pass Christian approved a $3.2 million project to begin restoring water and sewer to the city's waterfront. Phase one fixes the hurricane damage in lines near downtown.
"That's going to put the infrastructure back in there that we need in place," the mayor said. "Once it's completed, the state of Mississippi has assured us they will pave Scenic Drive for us. That will save us a bunch of money and will put us whole on the front end up there."
At the same time Scenic Drive sewer work starts, an $8 million downtown revitalization initiative will be formulated. That will help the city map out the best way to rebuild downtown buildings that Hurricane Katrina turned to rubble.
Lucio Cano recently renovated a hurricane damaged building on Davis Avenue.
"I see a lot of potential," the restaurant owner said just before the lunch rush arrived.
Cano knows his downtown business can thrive once other merchants return.
"I think they're going to build Pass Christian even better than it used to be," he said. "Everything is going to be new. So there is a lot of potential."
Pass Christian has issued 1,600 building permits since the storm. Most are to rebuild homes. Yet, Mayor McDermott realizes his city won't flourish until three keys -- the sewer system, the downtown area, and the harbor area -- are rebuilt.
"People of the Pass live here because they want to live here," McDermott said. "It's going to take us awhile, but we're going to come back."
by Brad Kessie
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