U.S. 11 widening not likely before 2014, City Council told

Published 5:01 pm Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Work to widen U.S. 11 to four lanes through Picayune probably won’t start until the year 2014, Mayor Greg Mitchell and Glade Woods, chief of operations for the city, learned at a meeting last week with Mississippi Department of Transportation personnel in Hattiesburg.

Woods made a report on the meeting to the full City Council at its meeting last night. He told the council that MDOT estimates the project would cost about $95 million.

The proposal to widen U.S. 11 was made by MDOT several years ago but nothing has happened since then. Several times MDOT surveyors were visited Picayune to surveyalong the route, and several times MDOT said it was ready to start buying land for the widening project.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Nothing has ever happened and now MDOT blames Hurricane Katrina for delaying the project since the money that MDOT officials said was allocated to the project was moved to projects along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Mitchell and Woods were told at their meeting in Hattiesburg.

Mitchell said they talked to MDOT about the impact that Katrina had on Picayune.

“We were hoping they would look at the impacted areas. … To be impacted is an emergency, too, but that didn’t seem to get too far,” Mitchell said. “To be turned down doesn’t mean we’re not going to continue going to them. … We know as a council that we have that need.”

Woods also reported on efforts he has made in meetings with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on a project to improve drainage in the Picayune area. He said the project he is discussing with USDA officials would cost about $370,000.

The holdup at this point is getting permission to go on private property to do some of the work, Woods said. He said about 40 percent of the permissions needed have been secured, but that there still are about 100 landowners to be contacted.

Letters have been drafted that will go out the approximately 100 landowners and will be sent, probably today, he said. Beyond that, city personnel also will begin going door to door to try to contact landowners that don’t respond to the letters, he said.

Woods said that he hopes that all those needing contacting will have been reached by Aug. 15, though he believes some landowners may have moved out of the area.

The City Council continued its efforts to require owners of blighted property to clean it up or face having the city clean up the property and then bill them for the costs. A hearing date of Tuesday, Sept. 5, was set at last night’s City Council meeting for owners of 17 properties, after which action will be taken to clean up the properties.

The board discussed a series of budget amendments to bring the budget in line with current income and expenditures and decided to handle the matter after its executive session at the end of the meeting. The sticking point appeared to be whether the figure for the sales tax rebate from the State of Mississippi was correct.

As part of its continuing drive to become nationally accredited, the Picayune Police Department asked the council to approve a contract with Stanley Electronics Security Systems for 24-hour a day alarm monitoring at department’s new evidence locker.

Deputy Chief David Ervin thanked the council when it approved the $700-a-year contract and said that the department’s efforts to become nationally accredited would not be possible without the support of the City Council.

Ervin also asked, and received, the council’s approval of the donation by Chevron Texaco of a pool table, foos ball tables and basketball goals for the department’s summer camp program for youths.

In other matters, the Mayor and City Council:

— Approved the consent agenda.

— Approved the docket.

— Approved a request from T.H.O.B. Teen Ministries to use Snyder Park for a 4-on-4 volleyball tournament on Aug. 12.

— Approved a request to advertise for bids to install flooring, ceiling tile and to paint three building at the old Arizona Chemical facility.

— Approved a request to accept a donation of $35,000 from Chevron to be used to improve airport facilities, including burying utilities at the airport, installing telephones in and furnishing the new terminal building and to go toward the construction to two new helicopter pads.

— Approved a request to replace the awning over the front drive at the Arizona Chemical building. The old awning appears to be in danger of partially caving in.

— Approved a request to set up a booth at the Governor’s Recovery Renewal Expo on the Gulf Coast Friday, Aug. 11-Sunday, Aug. 13.

— Approved holding a budget and strategic planning workshop at 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10.

— Approved a request for bids for milling and removing old asphalt on West Canal Street and overlaying it with new asphalt.

— Approved a request to connect Kim Crawford at 1414 Neal Rd. to city water.

— Approved a request for 75 percent reimbursement by FEMA of demolition cost at 828 Idlewild.

— Went into executive session on a series of contractual matters; on a memorandum of understanding with the PRC Utility Authority; and on a personnel matter.

Adjourned until 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10, for its workshop.