The agenda said Biloxi councilmen were going to debate the city's latest annexation plans. The mayor even made an opening statement about Biloxi's need to grow before it gets boxed in by other municipalities. Yet, Tuesday's talk turned into a clash over what Biloxi had and had not done after it annexed Woolmarket.
Biloxi annexed Woolmarket almost eight years ago. Since then, the city has spent $33 million on infrastructure needs in that area. Mayor Holloway says millions more are about to be spent on water and sewer needs. The mayor used that information to prove Biloxi was committed to Woolmarket, just like it would be committed to the people in its next targeted annexation area. "We can be a progressive city with an eye to the future," he said. "Or we can concentrate only on the past and we can argue about what we've done and what we haven't done."
Bill Stallworth understood the magnitude of the Biloxi City Council's Tuesday morning meeting. "What we do today will affect whether or not this city survives in the future," he said.
But before Biloxi looked too far ahead, councilman David Fayard said it better focus on current needs in Woolmarket. "When Biloxi treats us like part of Biloxi, then we will think we're part of Biloxi," Fayard said.
Despite vows at the meeting that engineers were working on $61 million in water and sewer improvements for the newly annexed area, and that $33 million had been spent on infrastructure in Woolmarket since Biloxi took over the area, Fayard remained a skeptic. "Until I actually see some pipe being laid, I'm not going to believe this. I'm sorry," he told the council.
That attitude didn't sit too well with ward five councilman Tom Wall. "Their complete disregard for the rest of the city is turning me off bad," Wall responded. Wall felt the bickering over Woolmarket was overshadowing Biloxi's current annexation plans. He worried that Councilman Fayard's stance could jeopardize the city's annexation battle with D'Iberville. "You're selling out the city of Biloxi," Wall told Fayard. "And you're selling out the city of Biloxi because you're upset that this thing hasn't gone faster."
In a statement to open the special city council meeting, Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway told council members, "This isn't about you and me. This is about the future of Biloxi."
Biloxi remains locked in a battle with D'Iberville over 12.2 square miles of land northeast of the city limits. Mayor Holloway considers that land an essential part of his city's long term plans. "It's about the Biloxi of the future will be boxed in and stagnate or whether we'll be a city that offers opportunity and growth," he said.
Councilman Mike Fitzpatrick originally asked for the annexation issue to be on today's agenda, because he was thinking about changing his vote and opposing the city's expansion plans. But when an Attorney General's opinion said today's vote would have been the wrong way to reconsider an annexation vote, he had the issue removed from the agenda.