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$650 million » Questions have emerged about the ambitious plan for sewage and water systems.

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The Broadwater project ended up in the Gulf Region Water and Wastewater Plan because Biloxi officials asked to incorporate an engineering study the city had commissioned before Katrina. Biloxi officials told the legislative committee that less-expensive sites were considered off the Broadwater property, but couldn’t provide documentation to back up the claim.

Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway, a member of the utility board, has declined repeated interview requests. The city’s engineer also declined an interview.

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In a statement through Vincent Creel, a city spokesman, the mayor blamed the Broadwater problems on engineers but wouldn’t say who.

Creel said the city commissioned the study before Hurricane Katrina to be sure it had the capacity to handle growth at a time when developers were proposing big developments on and near the Broadwater property.

Creel said he couldn’t recall if the study considered less-expensive sites.

Marlon Ladner, a Harrison County supervisor and member of the utility authority, said it appears engineers didn’t look at the half-acre Broadwater site before recommending it because there was a fence with a sign warning that it could be contaminated. There were also power lines over the site.

"That should have sent up red flags immediately," Ladner said.

Long Beach Mayor Billy Skellie, new president of the utility authority, said board members base decisions on the recommendations of lawyers, engineers and appraisers. There was also pressure from the state to get the projects done quickly, he said.

"We depend solely on professionals bringing us information back," Skellie said.

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