BP Oil Spill settlement money could be heading to the Coast soon

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Millions of dollars in BP Oil Spill settlement money earmarked to fund projects in South Mississippi could soon be heading to the Coast.

Now that the state House and Senate have given their finalized lists of projects to receive restore funds, the bill only needs the governor’s signature for the appropriations to be finalized.

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It’s back to the drawing board, or at least a time to revamp some projects pitched in South Mississippi to reel in some of the nearly $86 million in Restore Act funds from the BP Oil Spill settlement available to be allocated this year now that the state lawmakers have determined what projects made the cut for this year’s round of funding. Gulf Coast Restoration Advisory Board Executive Director and Chairman Ashley Edwards said, “They passed their appropriations bill last week and identified several projects that will receive funding.”

Edwards and others were appointed last year by the state’s governor to serve on the advisory board to review proposed projects in South Mississippi and recommend those best suited overall for our area. They did just that, narrowing down the initial 119 applications to 14 they sent to the legislature for approval. “The Advisory Board had a very thorough process. I think all the members of the Advisory Board were very happy with the level of review that occurred. The good projects were really clear. They floated to the top.”

A number of projects the board recommended did not make the cut. One of them is funding to help build a 60,000 square foot YMCA in Gulfport. It’s up to state lawmakers to decide just where the Restore Act funds will go each year. “I think most of the members of the Advisory Board were disappointed to see that so many projects were funded that we did not vet and did not refute.”

For now, Edwards and other members of the advisory board are looking ahead to the next round of funding and applications for 2021 funding are now being accepted online for review. They’re also hoping their recommendations will hold more water next time around.

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Toni started at WXXV News 25 in December of 2013, just three months after the news was launched. She has served as Assignment Editor, anchored for nearly two years, worked as a reporter for several years and hosted Coastal Connections for more than four years. Toni graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Southern Mississippi where she was editor of the Student Printz. She then did an internship on Capitol Hill, working for a U.S. Senator, then returned to Mississippi as a reporter at WDAM in Hattiesburg. After that, she moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, working as a reporter for FOX 25 in Biloxi, then crossing city lines to work at WLOX-TV news in Biloxi, starting out as a producer, then working as a photographer, reporter, weekend assignment editor and weekend anchor. She was among the station team that won the Edward Murrow and Peabody awards for coverage during Hurricane Katrina. Toni moved to the Lone Star State where she worked as the morning and noon anchor, investigative reporter and live shot reporter for KZTV Action 10 News, then KRIS TV News in Corpus Christi, Texas. Toni moved back to the Magnolia State to be with and take care of her family, working as a multi-media journalist and fill-in anchor at WDBD Fox 40 news in Jackson. After almost completing a second degree in filmmaking at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, Toni transitioned back to news at News 25. Toni is blessed to have a wonderful support network of close family, friends and mentors, and she hopes to pay it forward. She has a three-legged chiweenie named Rocky Balboa because of his fighting spirit. She loves writing and has completed a novel that has been adapted into a screenplay, and has just finished another screenplay called "Delta Rose." She's currently working on a new legal thriller called "Fall From Grace." Stay tuned.... If you’d like to book a live in studio interview on News 25 Today, just email: tmiles@wxxv25.com. These interviews can have up to two guests, last about two minutes and showcase community events, non-profit organizations and things of interest to people in our area…and they’re FREE! Just send information about your event, including date, time, location, contact number and/or website for viewers wanting more information, along with the proper name and titles of the person or two people who will be interviewed, and Toni or producer Porsha Williams (pwilliams@wxxv25.com) will get back with you via email in a timely manner to book a date. Typical interview times are daily at: 5:45, 6:45, 7:45 or 8:45 am. Guests are asked to arrive about 30 minutes beforehand. You can also ask about booking a live shot on location for news events for our 6 and 7 am newscasts. We look forwarding to having you!