MS: FEMA’s Rebuilding Cheif Visits Coast

The general who is overseeing the Katrina recovery for the federal government spent Wednesday touring Biloxi to see the successes and learn about the challenges.

Maj. Gen. Doug O’Dell, the coordinator of federal support for the recovery and rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, said he “mostly listened” when he met with Mayor A.J. Holloway. He plans to meet with Gov. Haley Barbour today and the new U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Steve Preston, later this week.

In Louisiana and Mississippi the recovery is “a tale of mixed results,” he said. “The challenge in Mississippi is different than the challenge in New Orleans, but nonetheless pressing. Public safety, law enforcement and schools have been largely restored in Mississippi, yet are still problematic in New Orleans. Mental health and housing are still two concerns in Mississippi.”

One of the challenges on the Coast is all the towns operated by a “tireless” mayor and a small staff. “The mayor is just as responsible, just as challenged to work through the FEMA project worksheets projects,” he said, as the much larger staffs of the parishes in New Orleans.

It is his job to identify the priorities. “In Mississippi,” he said, “it is housing, housing, housing,” circled with economic development.

He sees Biloxi ahead of other areas and said the city has a plan for recovery, but it requires patience. “There’s an energy in motion here that I don’t feel in other places on the Gulf Coast.”

First of all, Biloxi has recovered fair quick, but it is more the fact that the casinos control the town, more so than any other aspect.

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