Division Street and other surrounding streets in Biloxi have been under construction for some time now. Coast Dealing Academy has been caught right in the middle of it.
John Montella opened Coast Dealing Academy in October 2011 on Division Street in Biloxi. Within the past four years, he has seen his business start to plummet and he blames it on one thing: road construction. “It is devastating. I have been going into my pocket a lot to this school, which is not fun to keep it afloat. And I don’t know when it’s going to end. I keep hearing and they keep telling me what they’re doing and then oh all of the sudden it’s great for a while, traffic and everything, then they start tearing up everything again. So, I’m lost I have no idea what to do here.”
Montella has seen these roads redone three times in the past four years. When there was no access to the academy from Bohn Street, they made a call to the city to get part of their sidewalk made into an entrance. If you look up and down the streets around the school, you can tell the impact this construction is having on these local businesses. Administrative Director Deanna Johnson said, “If you look in this neighborhood there are no businesses that are surviving because of this construction. It isn’t that they’re doing sections at a time, so that traffic is able to flow through. They’re doing all the sections at one time. Hopefully we’ll be able to survive this.”
Coast Dealing Academy says they have lost 50 percent of their enrollment. They also had students just days ago who didn’t even have access to the building. If enrollment continues to nosedive, this loss for Montella will be more than just watching his business dwindle away. “This is my passion. This is more than just me teaching and putting people to work. By the way that’s our job here. We’re not selling chickens and hamburgers here. We’re changing lives.”
The City of Biloxi says the reason this process has been so long is because they are connecting sewer lines under the streets. On September 18th, Division Street will be paved from Bohn to Caillavet Street and will be open to the public.
Coast Dealing Academy just wants answers and for this nightmare to be over.