City holds meeting to boost organizations coordination

Published 10:39 pm Saturday, November 18, 2006

City Manager Ed Pinero hosted a meeting at the new City Hall yesterday in an effort to improve coordination of efforts and communication between organizations with which the city often works.

He urged the organizations to pursue grants to support efforts for their various projects and promised support to help them with the process, pointing out he has a great deal of experience in grant writing. As a professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, Pinero said he helped the school expand the amount of money it receives from grants from $40 million to about $100 million

“There are a large number of organizations and corporations that have money to give in the form of grants. There are also individuals and that one surprised me when I was doing this (grant writing) in a former life,” Pinero said.

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The city manager said that right now, Community Development Block Grants are a major source of money for the city and many of the organizations the city is working with.

Reba Beebe of Picayune Main Street and Stacy Pair, the organization’s director for South Mississippi, agreed and Beebe said she is working on a community block grant with help from Pair.

City Councilman Leavern Guy asked Pair if part of that could be used to give the city an artist’s conception of what the downtown area should look like and she indicated that perhaps it could.

Besides Main Street, the Greater Picayune Chamber of Commerce and the Partners for Pearl River County. Representing the city, besides Pinero, at one point or the other were all of the City Councilmen, new city public information officer and consultant Glade Woods.

Much of the information provided at what Pinero said will be the first meeting of its type was by the city to the organizations.

Pinero told the groups that the city will do everything it can to support their efforts, but that right now, the city is shorthanded.

“We have an effort to bring in some more people, but right now we are shorthanded. … That doesn’t mean we won’t help you, we just might not be able to do as much as we, or you, would like,” he said.

“From my standpoint, its roads and commodes,” Pinero said. “If there are any problems with water or sewer service, that takes on precedence for the day,” Pinero said in explaining how manpower shortage affects city’s efforts to support other programs.

He told the group of some recent successes the city has had in obtaining money to improve the city. He said that the city will receive a $2.5 million sewer rehabilitation grant; $500,000 to remove debris from ditches streams draining the city and that the city has been approved for a Department of Health revolving loan fund of $6.5 million for water service rehabilitation.

Pinero said a most pressing effort by the city right now is for a CDBG grant for Friendship Park, for a multipurpose community center and for a new fire station in near Wal-Mart and Home Depot. The city also is seeking a Department of Archives and History grant to help preserve the “historic City Hall.”

In the areas of economic development, he said the city’s first priorities are the airport and the new hospital.

Glade Woods said that the city’s airport is bustling and the runway there needs widening and lengthening to support the increasing amount of traffic at the facility, including inquiries about more commercial development there. He said after the meeting that for just one month this past summer the airport had 3,000 takeoffs and landings. He said the airport also needs more hangers and has a waiting list of 50 to 60 people wanting hanger space.

“The airport is just exploding with growth,” Woods said.

Increasingly, corporate jets are quietly coming into the airport bringing people who are scouting the area for potential commercial and industrial development, he said. Woods said United Parcel Service is considering locating a small distribution center at the airport.

Ron Fine, director of the Partners for Pearl River County, said he currently is working with four companies seeking building sites here. He and Woods spoke of industrial “clusters” and said the development of a new hospital may draw a medical “cluster” to the area. The two said a polymer plastics “cluster” could develop here.

Woods said growth at Stennis Space Center also holds promise for the Picayune area, especially with the probability of the expansion to four lanes of Miss. 607 going into the north gate of the rocket-engine test facility.

Fine said a major asset for area economic development is Pearl River Community College and its ability to train workers for businesses that may locate here. He praised city grants writer Barbara McGrew for her efforts in promoting minority- and women-owned businesses. He said more needs to be done in that area.

Pinero said he will send out a call for the group to meet again after the Thanksgiving holidays are over and asked the participants to think about how often they believe the group needs to meet to improve communications and coordination of efforts.