By Mark Wineka
WBTV News reporter David Whisenant, instrumental in having Salisbury adopt Pascagoula, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, said Tuesday the outlook is brightening for the Mississippi town.
Whisenant took a few minutes at the beginning of Salisbury City Council’s Tuesday meeting to update the city leaders on how things are going in Pascagoula, based on a telephone call he made to city employee Rebecca Davis last week.
Davis immediately offered that Salisbury was ” a wonderful city” and one of the first, if not the first, “to offer help and plant seeds of hope,” Whisenant reported.
Salisbury’s Overton Elementary School is still partners with Cherokee Elementary in Pascagoula.
A Salisbury banner has flown proudly in Pascagoula’s downtown, according to Whisenant, and probably will be going up again in coming weeks.
Pascagoula made a request to cities on a national list serve to send banners and brackets as a way of saying thanks for their help.
Davis told Whisenant a new senior housing center is being constructed in a neighborhood wiped out and abandoned after the hurricane.
The city’s Main Street and waterfront areas are refurbished and growing, Davis told him.
As for the residents, Davis told Whisenant, “We covet your prayers, a lot of people are still hurting.”
Whisenant reported that people are “graduating” from the FEMA trailers to FEMA cottages. And as many people leave the cottages, the homes are being used as small business incubators.
Referring to Katrina, Davis told Whisenant, “it happened in a night, but it will take years to rebuild.”
Whisenant said that in the weathered look of despair, Davis sees signs of hope. Whisenant also saw what she spoke of in his personal visit six months after the hurricane.
Trees that were twisted by wind and water had still managed to survive and grow.
Whisenant told council members to take his report at face value.
“Sometimes we do things because it’s the right thing to do and know it’s making a difference,” he said.
Mayor Susan Kluttz thanked Whisenant for the update and his bringing Pascagoula to Salisbury’s attention from the beginning. She said she was proud of the way Salisbury and Rowan County adopted the Mississippi city and responded to some of its many needs.
On a more somber note Tuesday, City Manager David Treme reported on the unexpected death over the weekend of Fleet Management Division Manager Ted Phillips, who had been with the city since 1999.
Treme described the 55-year-old Phillips, one of only 31 certified public fleet professionals in the united States and Canada and the only one in North Carolina, as “incredibly brilliant.”
“There’s nothing Ted could not do with a piece of equipment,” he said.
Phillips was a tremendous asset to the city and a good friend, Treme added.
Phillips had a degree in aerospace technology and a master’s in business administration in engineering management.
His funeral will be Thursday. The family is asking that memorials go to the American Heart Association.
By Mark Wineka