Bay St. Louis Man Upset Over City's Stance On MS Cottages

A Bay St. Louis man says he's going to Monday's city council meeting on a mission. Frank Baktis  is hoping to convince leaders to reconsider their stance on where Mississippi cottages can go. If he can't, Baktis says he'll likely move out of the city where he's lived for more than 20 years.

Baktis is one of thousands chosen in a lottery by MEMA to receive a cottage. However, he can't live in it because Bay St. Louis doesn't allow the cottages in residential areas.

"They gave me the FEMA trailer in November after the storm," said Baktis.

He says after Katrina he was grateful for the FEMA trailer. Now, after nearly two years in the tight space, he'd gladly move into a Mississippi cottage.

"I've seen the cottages," Baktis said. "I've walked through and there is no comparison. You have a nice six foot porch on the end of it, which gives you a little bit of recreation area. You've got one bedroom, you've got a nice big great area. And it gives you some stability, which you don't get in a FEMA trailer."

Baktis says he was ecstatic to learn MEMA was willing to swap his FEMA trailer for a safer cottage. That quickly changed when he learned Bay St. Louis was only allowing them in commercial trailer parks.

"I'm going to have to pay rent, and I have no idea what the cost of the rent is on that," he said. "That kind of defeats the whole purpose of being able to live in it and get a chance to rebuild."

Baktis says living in the cottage rent free, even on a temporary basis, would allow him to save enough money to rebuild and have a little more comfort.

"I'd rather have the cottage, because it's nicer to live in, and get on with my life and try to stay here. The attitude I'm getting from the city right now is, 'We don't want you.' I want to be able to rebuild and I can't right now. I need the cottage as a life boat to use as a base of operations to go ahead and start my life over again."

Baktis hopes he can sway the Bay St. Louis leaders at Monday's council meeting. If not, he says he'll consider moving somewhere else.

Ward one representative Doug Seal talked about the council's decision. He said, "Katrina cottages are to me similar to FEMA campers, and we really to move forward in rebuilding our areas. I believe it's time to move forward. We have places for the cottages in commercial parks. We need to continue to rebuild our neighborhoods with permanent housing."