As I sit here thinking about the two year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I am watching Hurricane Dean moving toward the Yucatan and Mexico. But it could have been here that Dean decided to visit. And we are sure glad he didn't, because we are not quite ready for another one yet.
So, how are things after two years? Well, some things are much better. Two lanes of our bridge opened in May, and it was a very emotional experience. There was a special program at the foot of the bridge on our side, then dignitaries went to the top of the bridge and tied a ribbon symbolically joining the two cities together. Then we had a celebration at the Bay-Waveland Yacht Club. More than 5,000 people attended, drank beer, ate food and visited the more than 150 booths showing local wares. Since the opening, I am now able to travel to Long Beach to the Winn-Dixie Grocery Store in 20 minutes, instead of the 45 it used to take. For me, it boosted my attitude a little more.
I am currently serving on the Hancock County Comprehensive Plan advisory board and the Bay St. Louis Historic Preservation Commission. I am dedicated to assuring that Bay St. Louis can retain some of the few historic buildings left and preserve our heritage.
The library system, http://www.hancocklibraries.info, is also moving right along. We have received two trailers from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to use as temporary libraries in Waveland and Pearlington. We have also received enough funding to rebuild the Waveland Library and should be breaking ground in the next couple months.
WANTED: Anyone who wants to come to Bay St. Louis and open a grocery store. We still only have Wal-Mart and need a real grocery store. The Chamber of Commerce has a $740,000 interest free, 10-year loan for anyone who might be interested in expanding their horizons and coming here to help us out by opening a grocery store. There are more than 11,000 vehicles crossing the Bay bridge every day now, and we know the business is here. So, go out on a limb and expand your business to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi!!
A great many businesses have come back and opened. We now have a Lowe's, a Home Depot, Kmart and many others. The main crisis here, other than rebuilding homes, is the insurance problem. People cannot get coverage on their homes because the premiums are outrageous or they think they are in a flood zone (FEMA will not publish the final Flood Advisory Elevations until next year). Businesses have seen as much as 640 percent increases in their premiums. U.S. Congressman Gene Taylor is now fighting for HR 3121, a bill that would provide multi-peril insurance sort of like flood insurance and for the whole country. So, everyone needs to let their U.S. representatives and senators that they are in favor of this bill should visit this Web site or Congressman Taylor's home page. With more than 53 percent of Americans living in coastal counties, this issue affects most Americans.
As for me personally, I have been in my house since December. I am still hanging pictures, rearranging closets and cabinets, but I am in. I have completed landscaping and am very pleased. The puppy dog, Pokie, and the cat, Freeway, are very happy and also settled in. Never in my life have I ever had a dishwasher, a garbage disposal and a utility room that has a washer and dryer (mine were the stackable kind). So these little things make a world of difference to me. And the backyard is fenced, It is just wonderful. I have included a photo, so you can see the ferns hanging on either side of the porch.
So, my last words to you would be - - please do not forget us. There are so many who still need help, who need volunteers to assist them in rebuilding their homes. We are a long way from being whole again. Yes, all these things help, but there is so much left to do. As you ride down the beach road, there are only 16 homes left. Sure, there are a few building back on the beach, but I hear their insurance premiums are like $28,000 a year.
So, thank you for all you have done, but do not forget us.
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