A Bridge Restores a Lifeline to a Battered Town
By ADAM NOSSITER
Published: May 29, 2007
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss., May 24 — Sometimes a bridge is more than just a bridge. The new span across the copper-colored St. Louis Bay connects today’s diminished reality to memories of a more generous past, a hopeful link to the return of better days.
Alex Brandon/Associated Press
Residents of Bay St. Louis, Miss., celebrated the return of the bay bridge this month. The span was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
The soaring bridge was dedicated last week amid jubilation in a ceremony attended by hundreds, 20 months after Hurricane Katrina blew out the old span. That tangible sign of pushing forward and of a quickening pace — commutes now are drastically shortened — has left people in this battered waterfront town of 8,000 quietly giddy about a future recently in doubt.
And it has ended the isolation, physical and mental, of a place that once considered itself a jewel of the Gulf Coast, a sun-baked collection of picturesque old frame houses that Hurricane Katrina smashed, then severed from its brethren to the east. The surge from the storm wiped out the concrete bridge carrying U.S. Highway 90 that had stood for a half-century.
The recovery is creeping along. Wind off the bay is still the loudest noise in the empty-seeming downtown, whistling through ruined buildings and banging loose siding. Before the storm Bay St. Louis was a favored seaside retreat for New Orleanians — the historian Stephen E. Ambrose had lived and written here before his death in 2002 — and, coming from the east, a genteel respite from the garishness of Biloxi’s casinos.
The 30-foot surge from Hurricane Katrina destroyed about half the houses here. But looming now in the distance is the sparkling two-lane bridge with its whizzing cargo of cars and promise of new life. Some here spoke of cruising across the new two-mile span, for the sheer pleasure of it. It is the latest sign of the region’s slow renaissance, and a rare example of efficient government intervention.
“It’s major, psychologically,” said Alicein Chambers, who opened the Mockingbird Cafe a year after the storm. “It just feels like we’re moving, we’re making progress, we’re going forward.” Before, “we were all just on this little cut-off island,” she said; now, “we’re happy to be part of the coast again.” It galled residents to shop for building supplies across the Louisiana state line.
The partly illusory feeling of isolation — the east-west Interstate 10, just 10 miles to the north, has been available throughout — was nonetheless pervasive. The old way of communicating with the neighbors in Pass Christian and Biloxi, first by way of the wooden bridge of the 1920s, then the concrete one of the 1950s, had been wiped out. And a seven-minute dash across the bay had turned into a 45-minute commute.
“After the storm, we were an island unto ourselves,” said Brian Rushing, a minister at the First Baptist Church. “We truly have been isolated from the rest of the Gulf Coast community.”
The bridge-builders worked like demons, completing in 10 months what normally might take twice as long, working at night under floodlights and booming the pile drivers during the day. The new bridge rises 85 feet above the bay at its highest point, 55 feet more than the old.
For weeks the contractor, Granite Archer Western, worked around the clock on the $267 million bridge. “He pulled out all the stops,” said the chief engineer in Mississippi’s highway department, Harry Lee James. Only a few cranks in town complained about the constant noise.
“Most people, it would not have mattered what they were doing, it was O.K. with them,” said the town’s mayor, Eddie Favre, a cousin of the Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre. “People saw it as an absolute necessity.”
The place has a long way to go, and the mayor’s relaxed post-Katrina garb — in a style common all over the coast right after the storm, but since discarded in most places — is testimony to the fact: a Hawaiian shirt adorned with cocktail glasses and the words, ‘It’s 5 o’clock Somewhere,’ sneakers and the shorts he has vowed to wear until Bay St. Louis is back on its feet.
Mayor Favre is still living in a trailer, and the old City Hall downtown is still empty. He has moved municipal functions to a former utility company building on the highway. Downtown, on a deserted street, an injunction scrawled on a vacant frame house — “Please respect our loss. Do not enter” — seems superfluous, as there is nobody around to read it.
With the fancy dwellings on the beach wiped out, property tax revenue fell by half. Sales tax revenue dropped by more than two-thirds. Though Bay St. Louis is now reunited with its neighbor on the other side of the water, precious little is waiting in Pass Christian: that old resort city is still mostly a tabula rasa on its once-proud beachfront.
Still, the reopened galleries on Main Street in Bay St. Louis, hopefully painted and primped, are waiting, and some claim an uptick in traffic already.
“It’s more than emotional,” said Dave Moynan of Maggie May’s. “It’s starting to translate into dollars.” There was precious little arts-and-crafts shopping on a recent quiet midweek afternoon, though.
Mayor Favre calls the bridge a tremendous psychological and emotional boost.
“For 626 days, we felt that isolation,” he said. “The bridge, in so many ways, whether it was walking or fishing, it was just so much a part of our daily life.”
A Star is Reborn
By DWAYNE BREMER
Sep 2, 2006, 01:36
|You couldn't help but notice the gleaming smile on the face of Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre Thursday morning, as he stood among the throngs of people waiting in line for the opening of the Hollywood Casino.
"This is a great day for Bay St. Louis," he said. "This shows there is hope, and that we really are going to rebuild. It is a huge step for our community, and a big piece of the puzzle."
The casino is not only a provider of more than $1 million of tax base for the city, it is also the city's largest employer. More than 1,000 people went back to work Thursday, most of them with full-time positions.
"It's wonderful to be back," Buffie Kidd said. "Seeing all of my old friends and all of the community is a thrill."
Casino President John Jagunich said it was a day for everyone to be proud.
"This is the culmination of efforts of a year-long challenge," he said. "We are employing more than 1,000 people. This money will be put back into the community three fold. Our opening will generate more business, more homes being built, and help the local tax base."
As the clock ticked closer to 11 a.m., hundreds of people flocked to the doors of the casino. Some were there to gamble, some just wanted to look around.
"It's very exciting," Chad Deville of Waveland said. "I want to look around and check out the poker room. It sure beats having to go 50 miles to other casinos."
"I could hardly wait for this day," Chanell Alexander of Slidell said. "I'm so excited."
Margie Ray of Slidell said she took off work just to come and have a little fun.
"I told my store manager I was coming," she said. "He is probably here himself."
Patrons were treated to some Hollywood legends before the doors opened.
Impersonators of Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and others mingled with the crowd, giving the opening a Hollywood feel.
When the clock struck 11 a.m., people rushed into the casino and for the first time in 366 days, the slot machines and table games were alive once again.
"It is one of the best days in our lives to be able to see everyone return to work," Public Relations Director Bob Davidge said. "We have so many repeat customers, many of them we have been seeing since 1992. These people are our friends. Everyone's live has been changed, we feel blessed to still be here."
He said 75 percent of the pre-storm staff has returned.
Hancock ceremonies commemorate worst disaster in U.S. history
By DWAYNE BREMER -=- Sea Coast Echo
Aug 30, 2006
As the sun went up over the Mississippi Sound Tuesday morning, there was a feeling of peaceful tranquility in the air.
The dove gray gulf waters were virtually still, and the smallest of waves lapped gently along the beach. Egrets, seagulls, and pelicans gently glided over the water looking to feed on a early morning fish, and at least for a few moments everything was right. From Bayou Caddy to Bay St. Louis, residents sat idle along the seawall, prayed at various sites, and gathered with their fellow citizens.
|Hancock County officials observe a moment of silence Tuesday in honor of those who died during Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005. Look for more photos in Saturday’s Sea Coast Echo.
Some were there to remember, some prayed, some just gazed into the placid water as if it were a crystal ball. Whatever their reasons, Tuesday's sunrise was a reminder of a better time, but also a symbol of that horrible day, one year ago, the day that took away our little piece of paradise.
The anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's devastation was marked by numerous events. Local leaders used the occasion to honor those who lost their lives, those who survived, and the spirit of recovery in the year since.
The day started with a sunrise vigil at Gulfside Assembly. A crowd of about 75 locals turned out.
"It's hard to imagine what happened here one year ago," a pastor said. "We are survivors, Katrina could not take away what is inside of us."
An hour later, parishioners gathered at Our Lady of the Gulf Church for a mass and prayer session.
The city of Waveland honored its community with a service at the foot of Coleman Ave. and the beach.
Several hundred residents attended.
The service began with the pledge of allegiance, and several local clergy followed with prayers, scripture readings, and words of remembrance.
Mayor Tommy Longo then spoke, and he took time to thank everyone who came to the city's rescue in the days and months after the storm.
"Thousands of volunteers came to our aid," he said. "I don't know where we would be without you."
At 9 a.m, Hancock County remembered the 57 people who lost their lives during the storm. Supervisor Lisa Cowand read each name and a firefighter rang a bell after each name was called. A minute of silence was then observed to honor the fallen.
Board of Supervisors President Rocky Pullman then addressed the crowd.
"It is hard to remember what this place looked like just a mere 366 days ago," he said.
"Hancock County will never be the same, but we have been able to maintain our heritage. A lot of people blame the good Lord for this hurricane, but as a Christian I want to think these people are in a better place. I am thankful this storm came in during the daytime, because if the storm would have arrived just a few hours earlier, people would have not been able to see to get out. The loss of lives would have been greater."
Pullman thanked the first responders and numerous volunteers who came to aid the county. He also took time to thank fellow officials, and pledged to the citizens will the supervisors will not rest stop until the job is done.
"We have been working diligently since the storm," he said. "We have made some mistakes, we are human. Whether it's us or someone else, we are going to keep working and try to do the very best for the people of this county."
Katrina’s Legacy in Bay St. Louis and Waveland
Posted: Tuesday, October 18 --- by Mike Brunker
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- It took Hurricane Katrina’s wicked winds and churning waters just an hour or two to pulverize hundreds of years of history and development in the neighboring Mississippi towns of Bay St. Louis and Waveland. But more than seven weeks after the most destructive storm in U.S. history, questions about the futures of the close-knit beachfront communities aren’t close to being answered.
While no one is suggesting that the picturesque towns in coastal Hancock County won’t be rebuilt, local officials acknowledge that it will take years to repair what Katrina ripped to shreds.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre said of the devastation that in some places extends miles from the beach. “… It’s just nothing but piles of sticks and lumber and people’s entire lives in one pile of mess.”
It also will take time to regain the sense of community that residents of the towns treasured. “A lot of people have left for good,” said Camille Tate, a Bay St. Louis real estate agent. “A lot of people just couldn’t stand it, came back and looked at it and said, ‘I will not stay here.’”
The historic Old Town area of Bay St. Louis was virtually erased by Hurricane Katrina.
In a scene playing out in communities all along the Gulf Coast, local leaders are contemplating a massive rebuilding effort at the same time they are facing severe budget shortfalls because of damage inflicted by the storm.
“We’re being promised that there has never been a municipality that has gone bankrupt after a presidential disaster declaration, so … all we can hang our hat on is that it will be made better, we will be made whole again,” said Hancock County administrator Tim Kellar.
Kellar estimates that Katrina instantly erased more than half the county’s tax base, cut its population of 46,000 by nearly a quarter -- at least for the short term -- and left county staff with just one 1,200-square-foot office building that was safe for occupancy.
Already the federal government has poured more than $70 million in emergency aid for individual residents of Hancock County, and approved more than $10.5 million to meet the short-term needs of the governments of the county and its only two incorporated towns -- Bay St. Louis and Waveland. But all parties agree that this is merely a downpayment on a long-term reconstruction effort that will carry a price tag that no one can yet even estimate.
“(Recovery) will be measured in years, not months,” said Eric Gentry, administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Hancock County.
Residents who have either remained in or returned to their homes have more immediate concerns – such as searching for belongings in the massive debris piles or cleaning the toxic muck left in their houses by retreating floodwaters.
Many also are battling with insurance companies, which are classifying the storm surge as “flooding” rather than a hurricane-caused phenomenon.
“My homeowners (insurer) has offered me $10,000 … that’s only for the tree that fell out front and a few other little things,” said Tate, the Bay St. Louis real estate agent. “They say they don’t owe anything (on the damage to the house itself) because … it was rising water.”
Only about one-quarter of the 21,000 homeowners policies issued in Hancock County included flood insurance, according to FEMA’s Gentry.
Huge rebuilding task
When residents pause to contemplate the future, many express fears that the pressure on the economically devastated local governments will lead to approval of coastal developments that will destroy the charm of the towns and neighboring communities.
An aerial view of the damage in Bay St. Louis.
“The cities and the counties need the money more than ever now to rebuild … and it’s going to be very appealing to put high-density housing on the beach,” says Ellis Anderson, a Bay St. Louis resident who co-founded the Coastal Community Watch earlier this year to fight condominium developments proposed for the area before Katrina hit.
Anderson, who like many other Bay St. Louis and Waveland residents describes her hometown in terms usually reserved for Norman Rockwell paintings, said she intends to mount a grass-roots campaign to insist that officials make preserving the charm and small-town atmosphere of the arts colony a priority in considering redevelopment proposals.
Her efforts will be complicated by the extent of the damage inflicted by the storm.
Bay St. Louis, a town of 8,209 built on the bluffs where French explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Bienveille hunted game in 1699, and Waveland, which had a pre-hurricane population of 6,674, were at the worst possible place at just the wrong moment when Katrina roared ashore early on Aug. 29. Her “eye” passed just to the west, putting the cities squarely in the northeast quadrant of the eye wall – the counterclockwise maelstrom where the winds are strongest and the storm surge most ferocious.
Though Katrina had weakened from a monstrous Category 5 storm before it made landfall on the Louisiana coast that morning, experts estimate that it was still packing winds of 125 mph or higher when it reached the Mississippi coast. But the big killer was a storm surge of at least 30 feet, with wind-whipped waves of seven feet on top of that.
Fortunately, most residents heeded authorities’ warnings and fled before Katrina crashed ashore. But some, believing they had survived the worst Mother Nature could throw at them when they rode out Hurricane Camille in 1969, stayed put and hoped for the best.
“We kept putting out a lot of warnings (but) people had ‘I Survived Camille Syndrome’ … and wouldn’t leave,” said Brian “Hootie” Adam, director of the Hancock County Emergency Management Agency.
It was a decision that virtually all of them would regret – if they survived. At least 50 people in Hancock County perished in the storm and many others – no one is certain just how many – are still missing.
Brian Mollere, a Waveland resident who fought for his life – and that of his mother’s Chihuahua, Rocky – after the torrent flattened the family-owned hardware store and her home above it, was one of the lucky ones.
“I was picked up by a 40-foot wave and pushed 800, 900 feet,” he recalled. “It just wasn’t my time to go.” His mother, who had left to ride out the storm in Bay St. Louis, didn’t survive.
When the waters receded several hours later, an unspeakable scene of devastation awaited local officials venturing out for their first look.
“We expected to see roof damage and parts of buildings maybe gone, but this was entire neighborhoods and entire blocks of streets … totally gone, nothing left,” said Favre, who is serving his fifth term as Bay St. Louis mayor and was among those left homeless by the storm.
The picture hasn’t brightened in subsequent weeks.
“As best we can tell right now, we’ve lost about half of our homes and businesses, maybe a little bit more … (and) probably 75 to 80 percent of the tax base,” said Favre, a distant cousin of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre. “… Casino Magic (the biggest single contributor to the city budget) is gone for at least a year, if not longer.”
Also devastated was the town’s core: three blocks of Main Street that were home to the city’s vibrant arts colony and the scene of the Second Saturday art walk, which drew visitors by the thousands every other weekend during spring and summer.
A cleanup crew removes debris along Main Street in Bay St. Louis.
The bad news doesn’t stop there: The Hancock Medical Center, the only hospital in the city, was badly damaged and is now offering limited services from a series of tents erected in its parking lot; the city’s schools, which sustained major damage, remain closed, with a target date for reopening of Nov. 1; the Highway 90 bridge that connected Bay St. Louis with Pass Christian was destroyed and will take many months and approximately $150 million to replace; a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew intended to discourage looters remains in place; and residents with utilities are still being advised to boil water as public works crews struggle to repair a host of leaks in the water system.
The situation is as bad or worse a few miles to the southwest, where the government of Waveland almost ceased to exist when the floodwaters swamped neighborhoods that had never flooded before.
“Our 130-year-old City Hall was gone, every public building was gone except for that fire station and the police station, but both of them had multiple feet of water in them and … were condemned,” said a visibly exhausted Mayor Tommy Longo, who is directing his city’s recovery effort from a makeshift encampment and command center atop a water treatment plant. “So we literally had lost every resource that we had – 91 city vehicles. We got an animal control truck working that we shared for about a week. I had people chasing me with dogs everywhere, flagging me down.”
The downtown area looks as if a bomb was dropped on it. All that remains of City Hall is a flag pole, a small piece of a mosaic mural depicting a Mardi Gras celebration and a plaque expressing gratitude to those who helped the city rebuild after Hurricane Camille.
While most of Longo’s attention in the weeks since has been devoted to clearing the streets using donated and leased heavy equipment, and restoring water, electricity and sewer service to as many residents as possible, he also has been able to get many city offices back up and running out of Quonset huts obtained from an Alaska company.
The mayor, who also lost his home and was forced to relocate his wife and five children to Maine, said the city is still assessing the extent of the damage, but that virtually every building gulf-side of the railroad tracks that bisect the city was destroyed, and many others on the other side were left uninhabitable.
The federal government is standing behind the embattled local governments so far. The initial $10.5 million allocated by FEMA went to cover payroll and overtime costs during the frenetic first weeks after Katrina hit. City and county officials are now preparing “project sheets” that, if they are approved, will enable them to permanently replace equipment and facilities destroyed by the storms, on the federal dime.
Gentry, the FEMA administrator, said that while the cost of the rebuilding will be steep, the agency is in Mississippi and other Katrina-ravaged areas for the long haul.
“We still have offices open in Florida from last year’s hurricanes and those will be open for years to come,” he said. “This will be a multiyear recovery and FEMA will be here throughout that process.”
Less clear is to what degree FEMA will cover the local governments’ ongoing expenses until they regain their financial footing.
“We’re not sure. We don’t have all the answers yet,” said Kellar, the county administrator, when asked how long the emergency federal funding was expected to continue. “This is our first time to ever go through this and I hope it’s our last.”
Despite the financial uncertainties facing them in the coming months and years, city and county officials are uniformly upbeat in assessing their long-term prospects.
A historical marker thanking people for coming to aid of Waveland after Hurricane Camille in 1969
is one of few things still standing at the site of the old City Hall.
“We have an opportunity that not many people get… to build a model community from scratch,” said Longo. “… We have the history since 1887 to learn from and build from.”
Jeffrey Reed, a Bay St. Louis city council member and minister of the non-denominational Powerhouse of the Deliverance Ministries, said he believes the city will come roaring back as long as the city gives residents a reason to believe.
“By keeping in contact with the people, keeping their spirits up and keeping hope alive in them, just by the fact that they’re here, the city is going to come back,” he said. “… If they’ve done something before, they can do it again.”
Many of the citizens – at least those who never left or are returning to the cities – also remain optimistic despite the scenes of destruction that greet them each day.
“There’s going to be a change, but… I’m hoping that it’s going to be for the good, that it will be a small wonderful community with small shops and a lot of artists,” said Tate, the Bay St. Louis real estate agent.
“It’s like a cleansing,” said Mollere, the Waveland man who survived a close encounter with the storm surge, describing the post-apocalypse landscape he sees from his tent and trailer encampment across the street from the flattened City Hall.
“It’s like you look around, everything’s gone. It’s like you can paint a new picture now. The town can come back better than it ever was. ... It can be the perfect little city now.”
Posted on Fri, Sep. 16, 2005
BAY ST. LOUIS | Bayland? Merging of shattered towns mulled
By RYAN LaFONTAINE --- SUN HERALD
HANCOCK COUNTY - For years, locals have suggested Bay St. Louis and Waveland merge to form one city - and a top government expert says now's the time.
Hurricane Katrina severely injured both of these tiny towns.
Waveland has essentially vanished. The city hall, police and fire station are gone. Nearly all of the city's tax base, property south of the CSX railway, was wiped out.
Greg Iverson, one of the owners of Fire Dog Saloon overelooks the area
The county's arts-and-crafts mecca, Old Town Bay St. Louis, is now a smelly neighborhood of flooded buildings. Beachfront bars and bistros have been scraped from their foundations.
Katrina shoved massive sections of the U.S. 90 bridge into St. Louis Bay, destroying the main artery that connected the two cities to the rest of South Mississippi.
With Waveland on life support and Bay St. Louis deeply wounded, a noted expert on Mississippi government said now is the time to consolidate.
"Now is an opportune time to take a look at merging the two cities," said Marty Wiseman, director of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University. "If the two cities could combine, it might be an opportunity to regain a large measure of their livability."
Because of the widespread devastation, many of the area's residents are gone, along with most of the commercial property. Wiseman said that could deal a fatal blow to both cities.
Waveland's Super Wal-Mart is now home to dozens of National Guard troopers and scores of out-of-state law enforcement officials.
The Bay's Casino Magic was mangled and chunks of the casino hotel were torn away by Katrina's record-breaking storm surge.
"There's no way, locally, for the cities to immediately catch up," Wiseman said. "I think it would be wise for the Bay and Waveland to sit down and see whether a joint effort would be successful."
Bay Mayor Eddie Favre said he would not rule anything out but would first need to know if residents in both cities would benefit from consolidation. "I truly believe, that even without a merger, both cities will survive," he said. "But, at this point, everything needs to be considered. No stone needs to be left unturned."
Wiseman said combining the two cities would likely mean changing their current forms of government.
D'Ibervile and several other coastal cities use the "city manager" form of government, in which a board of elected officials hires a chief executive, or city manager.
"That may be something to look at, with a city manager who's able to come in and blend the services and maximize the potential of the area," Wiseman said. "The chances of keeping all the city officials, well, I think it would be unusual."
The cities are still awaiting a decision from an expensive annexation trial, hoping to win a once-prime stretch of land along Mississippi 603. Today, the land is littered with broken homes and crumpled cars.
Waveland Mayor Tommy Longo could not be reached for comment.
Wiseman said two Mississippi cities have never before merged, but he said it may be just the thing to help save Waveland and the Bay from extinction.
"They're both wonderful towns," he said. "Everybody wants that end of the Coast to keep on keeping on."
Posted on Fri, Nov. 04, 2005
BAY ST. LOUIS --- Life in Old Town stopped
By RYAN LaFONTAINE
OLD TOWN - The unmistakable aroma of coffee wafting from nearby shops. The Bay of St. Louis sparkling under the rising sun, as the racket of delivery trucks rattles between the old buildings.
Just down the street, beachfront bar owners clean up from the night before, while merchants and lawyers in suits scurry along the sidewalks, readying for another day's business.
It's a regular, almost sacred early morning routine in this neighborhood, or it was until Aug. 29, when life in Old Town stopped.
The Good Life, Fire Dog Salon, Daniel's South Beach, and the Dock of the Bay were beachfront pubs where locals could start tabs using only first names as collateral.
The Fire Dog is an empty shell, and there's hardly a sign that the other three ever existed.
"We are going to be bigger and better this time, and we plan to get started building as soon as they get the blacktop fixed," said Daniel Murphy, co-owner of Daniel's.
Old Town was built atop a bluff. That didn't stop Katrina.
Rusty sewer and water pipes are scattered across several city blocks. Exposed manholes stick out of the ground like giant pimples on the face of the sand path that was once Beach Boulevard, a two-lane hardtop road.
It's hard to tell where the sidewalk met the front door of Trapani's Eatery - there's little trace of the building, much less the door - but Jolynne Trapani, and her husband Tony, said the eatery will be back.
"We are going to rebuild the restaurant exactly where it was," she said. "This time we are going to do two stories, with a wrap-around porch upstairs for outdoor dining."
Two months before the storm, Elizabeth Dowdy purchased a 19th-century building in the 100 block of Main Street with plans of running a gallery in the vibrant art community surrounding it.
The building is hanging on, and Dowdy, and many of the artists and musicians who used this part of town as their workbench, plan to return.
Government buildings on Main, Court and Second streets were pummeled, and officials expect the city and county to operate from temporary locations for about two years.
Trapani plans to open in temporary quarters on U.S. 90 sometime next month. Murphy and other restaurant owners also are looking to set up temporary locations.
"Everyone downtown knew that it was a jewel, and they want to come back," Trapani said. "Old Town was the heart of Hancock County, and it might take a long time, but it'll be back."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 56 percent of the people living around Old Town in Bay St. Louis are white. Most homes in the census tract that includes Old Town are valued at less than $100,000, and the area has a median household income of $30,841.