BY JACE PONDER
A bill to halt flood insurance increase cleared the U.S. Senate today.
Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HR.3370) passed the Senate 72-22. It passed the House a little over a week ago by a vote of 306-9.
It will now head to the President’s desk for signature.
U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today voted for final passage of the legislation.
“This bill is responsive to the Mississippians I’ve heard from, many of whom are longtime residents or on fixed incomes. Even though they followed all of the government’s rules, they were facing unfair costs and mandates that this legislation will now alleviate,” Cochran said in a press release.
“The legislation we’re sending to the President responsibly addresses the unintended consequences created by the Biggert-Waters Act. The necessary reforms in the Biggert-Waters law will continue, but without causing serious financial hardship for families, businesses or whole communities,” he said.
Congressman Steven Palazzo, (MS-4), praised the bill’s passage in a press release.
“This bill is what everyday, middle-class Americans – in Mississippi and across the country – have been waiting for,” Palazzo stated. “I applaud the Senate’s strong support of our bill; this is truly a testament to people overcoming politics. I am encouraged by the extensive bipartisan, bicameral results, but real credit belongs to the communities all across the nation who worked with us to make this happen. I am pleased to report this bill truly reflects South Mississippi views and voices. I am proud to have played a part in these compassionate and fiscally responsible reforms that will ensure flood insurance remains affordable and available for those who need it. That has been my goal from day one.”
Palazzo introduced legislation containing several similar provisions to H.R. 3370, including slower phase-in rates for premiums and more compassionate flood insurance rates for grandfathered and subsidized properties as well as home sales. The bill also contains measures to hold FEMA accountable for faulty mapping practices, fast-track FEMA affordability studies, and protect homeowners who appeal faulty FEMA maps. Despite several key changes to the existing Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, H.R. 3370 is budget-neutral and adds nothing to the deficit.
The bill repeals Section 207 of the law and restores grandfathered rates.
Under Biggert-Waters, homes lost grandfathered rates once a property was sold or maps were changed, resulting in drastic, overnight rate increases in some cases. The new legislation does away with home sale triggers, retroactively refunds home sale increases on pre-FIRM properties, and ties premiums to properties, not people. The House plan would also ensure that FEMA does not move the goal posts on those who built back to code after storms like Hurricane Katrina.
The bipartisan legislation going to the White House includes offsets for the costs of HR.3370, which would limit annual policy rate increases, force FEMA to certify its mapping methodology, and set milestones for FEMA to carry out a flood insurance rate affordability study, among other things.
BY JACE PONDER
BY JEN COLEMAN
Finishing touches are being put on new Boy Scout Hut – a milestone in a nine-year journey of rebuilding.
The keys are expected to be exchanged sometime in the next month. But even after the Boy Scouts move in, the hard work continues for the local Rotary Club, which charters the troop and funded construction of the hut. The completed hut cost in excess of 100,000 and more than half of those costs need to be repaid.
Am anonymous donor recently approached the Rotary Club and offered to match donations up to $12,500. Rotary is turning to the community to help raise those funds.
Rotary is seeking sponsors for its “Brick by Brick” campaign. For $200, donors can have an engraved brick with their name or message installed inside the hut. Cornerstone sponsorships start at $3,000.
Trey Campbell, the Rotary representative for Scouts, acknowledges the difficult fundraising climate after the initial fervor for Katrina rebuilding has waned, and the struggling economy has yet to make a full recovery. But he said the troop is a point of pride for the small community.
“The kids are definitely worthy,” he said. “It’s one of the best scout troops out there.”
Since Katrina, the troop has been meeting in trailer where the water only sometimes works.
“That trailer is a Katrina reminder,” Campbell said. “We owe them a safe building.”
The new 1,200-square foot building, designed by Leah Watters and built by Matt McBride, is constructed 8 feet off the ground at the corner of East Second Street and Fleitas Avenue.
“It looks like a tree house,” Campbell said.
Campbell said builders were careful to meet all city codes, including adding an elevator for accessibility. They also used state-of-the art insulation to cut down on operating costs. But the interior of the hut is intentionally sparse.
“There’s no crown molding,” Campbell joked.
It’s a functional space. The hut will offer a permanent meeting place with space for large-group meetings, breakout rooms, and ample storage for supplies. The location next to the park and tennis courts will allow kids to run around, exercise and practice Dutch-oven cooking.
Troop 316 has a long and distinguished history in Pass Christian.
The Rotary Club began sponsoring since the troop in 1931. Since Katrina, troop has 12 Eagle Scouts, a staggering number for a town this size.
There are currently 22 registered Scouts in Troop 316. Scoutmaster Paul Nault said the troop is comprised of young men with a spirit for service.
“It’s a great program. A lot of people don’t realize all the Scouts do,” he said. “It teaches them character and citizenship.”
BY JEN COLEMAN
If you’ve ever wondered how sheep’s wool becomes the latest sweater trend of the season, join the Dyed-in-the-Wool Weavers Guild for a public demonstration at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22 at the Pass Christian Library.
“People forget where things come from,” said weaver Margaret Harris. The demonstration on Saturday will feature spinners to show how hairs and fibers get prepared for being spun into thread.
Harris said children are often especially fascinated by the wheeled contraptions.
“It’s just so far away from anything they recognize in their world,” she said. “It never occurred to them that clothes didn’t just magically appear at Walmart.”
While weaving may be a bit of a lost art, the local weaving guild has been meeting for more than 40 years to discuss and advance their craft. The club currently draws about 10 members from all along the Gulf Coast, from Mobile to Louisiana.
People often question why weavers continue to make their own materials when fabrics are so readily available. Harris said weaving her own fabric gives her quality and variety that she couldn’t find in a store. For example, Harris’ husband returned from Alaska with quivit, the dense, fine hair of wild musk ox. She hasn’t yet decided how to use the hair, which normally sells for about $75 an ounce.
Harris said she is able to weave fabric according to how she plans to use it. The fabric she weaves for curtains is different than the fabric she weaves for upholstery.
“Everything you have in your house that has material or fabric on it is something you can weave,” she said.
The weavers guild meets the second Thursday of each month, with the meeting location alternating between Pass Christian and Ocean Springs. The March meeting will take place at 10:30 in Pass Christian.
BY JEN COLEMAN
I have a confession: I don’t really like Mardi Gras. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I don’t “get it.” I grew up in California and this is my first carnival season on the Gulf Coast, so the allure of parades and beads and adult royalty is foreign to me.
My feelings toward Mardi Gras changed last week when I was introduced to the culinary wonder that is the king cake. The Gazebo Gazette assembled a motley group of residents, business owners and tourists to take part in a king cake tasting panel. The bakeries represented in this panel included Melissa’s Specialty Cakes in Long Beach, Serious Bread in Bay St. Louis, Walmart in Pass Christian, Rouses Supermarket in Long Beach, Randazzo’s Camellia City Bakery in Slidell, and Paul’s Pastry Shop in Picayune. In an effort to make a fair comparison, only traditional versions of the king cake were ordered.
Judging from appearance alone, I didn’t have high expectations for these cakes. With their thin glazes and haphazard colorful sprinkles, I thought the cakes looked as if they’d been decorated by blindfolded kindergarteners. As I dished up samples of each cake onto my plate, I was initially overjoyed to discover the plastic baby in a piece of Paul’s king cake. “Ooh! Ooh! I got the baby,” I squealed, assuming it meant I would win some sort of prize. Paula Armbruster, owner of A&A Marine Hardware and my personal king cake historian, gently explained to this yankee that finding the baby meant I was responsible for buying the next king cake. When Armbruster was a child, beans were used in place of plastic babies to represent the Christ Child. Armbruster remembers her father’s instructions should she ever find the bean in her piece of cake: “Just swallow it!”
Because of choking hazards, most bakeries no longer place the plastic baby inside the cake. Of the six cakes in our tasting panel only two – Randazzo’s and Paul’s – actually had the baby inside.
From Armbruster I also learned that king cakes are traditionally braided. The cakes from Rouses and Paul’s were not braided, but that didn’t diminish my desire to taste either one. By now, the cinnamon smell had filled the newspaper offices and the aroma was overpowering my initial skepticism of the garishly decorated cakes.
When it came to tasting, the overall winner was the cake from Melissa’s Specialty Cake. Although it was the smallest cake of the bunch, it packed a wallop of cinnamon deliciousness that managed to be both moist and dense. The frosting complemented the cake without being overpowering.
There wasn’t a uniform consensus on every cake. The king cake from Serious Bread had a hint of citrus in the frosting. I found the subtle lemon flavor to be a pleasant surprise for my taste buds, but other panelists found it off-putting. In selecting a king cake, much depends on personal preference. The cake from Randazzo’s, for example, had a much thicker frosting that felt more like a cake frosting rather than a thin glaze. Those with a high sugar tolerance would probably enjoy this.
The cake from Rouses had the widest range of scores. Some ranked it first, while others had it toward the bottom. I didn’t care for the icing, which tasted overly artificial. It’s hard, though, to take issue with the price. At about $6 a cake, Rouses offers the best option for a budget.
There was agreement among panelists that the least favorite cakes came from Walmart and Paul’s. The cake from Walmart was overly dry and dense, making it hard to cut into. The cake from Paul’s lacked moisture. The cinnamon in the bread was more like a paste and some pieces of the cake lacked cinnamon entirely. Panelists were also turned off by the thick layer of sugar that encrusted the Paul’s cake.
I wasn’t the only “newbie” introduced to king cake that day. A family of tourists from Michigan and Pennsylvania wandered by the Gazebo Gazette offices, and we invited them inside for a tasting. They were equally wowed by the Mardi Gras dessert. Out of the four of them, two selected Melissa’s as their favorite, while the other two favored the cake from Rouse’s.
After tasting each cake, I went back for seconds from Melissa’s and Serious Breads. I can finally see what all the fuss is about. The resemblance to a cinnamon roll left me somewhat confused over whether king cake was to be eaten at breakfast or for dessert. Once again, Armbruster came to my rescue with the answer: “During king cake season, there is no wrong time of day!”
I suspect that king cakes will be my gateway to the Mardi Gras spirit. I might even take a break between bites to yell, “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”
BY JACE PONDER
The Lady Pirates soccer team will play their first post-season game against Forest County tonight on the road.
The Lady Pirates finished the season in second place behind Bay High in the 4A Division 8 soccer.
Last Saturday, they played and won two district games in Gulfport to secure their spot in the post-season.
The Lady Pirates took the first game 1-0 against Vancleave.
The long goal came midway through the second half when Madison Lafontaine got the ball to Shannon Swilley on a breakaway. Swilley then threaded her way between several defenders before beating the keeper one-on-one with a shot to the side net.
Later that day, the Moss Point fell 3-2 to the Lady Pirates.
Coach Marco Mthembu said he rested many of the starters to give the younger players some game time. Earlier this season, the Lady Pirates beat Moss Point 4-1.
The first goal of the match came on a penalty kick by Shannon Swilley.
The Pirates held a 1-0 lead most of the game before Moss Point equalized on a penalty kick of their own.
Minutes later, Emma Holland dribble through defenders and scored to regain the lead for the Lady Pirates.
However, Moss Point equalized, again on a penalty kick, and brought the game to overtime.
After 20 minutes of overtime with no goals, the game went into a shootout which the Lady Pirates won.
“The game shouldn’t have gotten there, but it gave a lot of younger girls the opportunity to play competitively,” coach said.
Tonight, the Lady Pirates will travel to Brooklyn to take on the Forest County Agricultural High Bulldogs.
Mthembu said the Lady Pirates played the Bulldogs last year and tied 3-3.
“We are expecting a strong offense from Forest County. They are quick in transition,” he said. “I told the girls to stick to our game strategy and try to contain them.”
“We will rely on a counter attack as best we can and try to close down their key players.”
The boys soccer team finished the season third in the division behind first place Bay High and second place St. Stanislaus.
The Pirates record was 9-8 overall and 4-4 in district.