Despite the recent state-wide spike in COVID-19 infections, the Bay St. Louis City Council had some positive news to discuss at its regular meeting on Tuesday — including more than $2.5 million in grants and other awards for revitalization projects.
First up on Tuesday, Hancock County Tourism Director Myrna Green told the council that the city had been awarded a $100,000 grant for improvements at the Depot train platform, in preparation for the long-awaited revival of Amtrak service on the Coast.
The funding is a 50/25/25 grant, meaning the Southern Rail Commission will provide $50,000 and the city and Hancock County governments will each put up $25,000.
The money will be used to fund ADA improvements, as well as parking lot repairs and building a new canopy where the passengers will disembark from the train.
The council also discussed two grants approved last week by the Mississippi Legislature, using the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund (also known as “BP money”): A $1.5 million award for the revitalization of the Depot District; and another $1 million to help the city build a new police department.
“The Old Town Depot District has the potential to be a huge tourist attraction for the city, which made the project a perfect fit for the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund,” according to a press release from Mayor Mike Favre’s office. “It is (Mayor Favre’s) hope that the grant will be the fire needed to ignite the revitalization of the Old Town Depot District.”
“A few weeks ago, I was worried that our project was dead, but refused to give up the fight,” Favre said in the release. “We headed to Jackson to persuade legislators to fund this important revitalization. With the help of my friends Brent Anderson, Richard Bennett, Philip Moran and my city council, we were able to secure funding through legislation.”
Anderson and Moran were scheduled to address the council Tuesday, but were unable to attend the meeting.
Ward Three Councilman Jeffrey reed asked to form a committee from the public to discuss options for the Depot District.
Among the improvements in the grant request are an outdoor amphitheater and seating; a water feature; a bathroom facility; parking; and updates to the facade of the Depot building itself.
The new police department building will be constructed at the corner of Hwy. 90 and Main St., where the old department — closed a few years ago due to black mold infestation — still remains.
The council has issued a request for bids to tear down the old building.
“I am thrilled that all of our hard work paid off and we were able to secure the funding for our much-needed police station,” Favre said in the release. “We worked with legislators for three years to find the funding for this project.”
“The site is extremely accessible to the public and next to municipal court, city hall and the fire department,” Police Chief Gary Ponthieux Jr. said in the release. “We are currently in the process of demolishing the old police station and designing the new one. We anticipate the new station will be approximately 8,500 square feet and will provide state-of-the-art facilities for employees and citizens. There will be space within the structure for citizens and our youth to interact with the department staff in a positive environment.”
The new police department will also provide the police department the opportunity to meet minimum accreditation requirements by Mississippi Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission (MSLEAC), according to the release..
The council voted Tuesday to authorize advertisement for bids for engineering and architectural services for both the Depot and police station projects.
The Gulf Coast Restoration Fund monies will be administered by the Mississippi Development Authority. The grants will be disbursed as an 80/20 match. The council voted to use the money from the sale of the Garden Club building on Main Street to put int the police department project, once the building is sold.
In other action Tuesday:
• The council reinstated $25,000 in funding for the splash pad project at Martin Luther King Park. That funding was temporarily withdrawn from the budget after the COVID-19 crisis began and the council tried to find ways to work around the potential tax revenue losses from the shutdown.
• The council approved using $40,000 from the Road & Bridge Fund to improve several streets in Ward Six. Ward Six Councilman Josh DeSalvo said the roads were badly need of repair.