PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - Pass Christian's mayor says the city's focus is on encouraging residents to stay put and getting those who've moved away to come back home.
On Thursday morning, Mayor Chipper McDermott gave his state of the city address at the Pass Christian Yacht Club. He told the crowd that while there are still obstacles to recovery, there are also many signs of progress all around.
While the mayor spoke, workers were busy just down the road laying the foundation for Pass Christian's new library.
"That library is in the ground," said Mayor McDermott. "There ain't no ifs, ands, or buts about that. That's 10,000 square feet. "
Several construction projects are well underway in Pass Christian including a new school, a new Wal-Mart and a new fire station. The mayor says residents need to see things happening.
"A lot of people are rocking back and forth on whether or not they can build back now or later. They see some progress and that just spurs more people to do something else, so it's all chain reaction," McDermott said.
The current population in the Pass is about 4,500. That's still down from the 6,400 residents who lived there before Katrina. Mayor McDermott said the city must make living in Pass Christian more attractive, if it wants to grow.
"With the re-assessment that went on, of course, the appraisal values went up," the mayor said. "We cut ours by 8.74 mills to not overtax these people here, because we need to keep everybody that we have here and encourage those to come on back. "
Mayor McDermott believes it will take about eight more years for the city to fully recover from Katrina, but in the mean time he's encouraging people to stay strong and stay positive.
"There are a lot of things to look at whether you want to look at the good or the bad," McDermott said. "The whole coast looks better than it used to look and it's getting better every day. "
Mayor Chipper McDermott said bids should go out for a new police/EOC building at the next Board of Aldermen meeting. He said FEMA put construction of a new city hall on hold after it was revealed that part of the building would be in a velocity zone. The mayor said the city appealed and has been told verbally that the city won. He says construction should start as soon as the official paperwork comes in.