HAWL told emergency exit must close

Published 7:53 pm Wednesday, December 6, 2006

The emergency situation that caused the opening of Hide-A-Way Lake’s second exit has expired so Picayune City Council asked the gated community to close the south gate until another emergency presents itself.

Sometime after Hurricane Katrina the management at Hide-A-Way Lake requested to open the south gate of the gated community, which leads into the Millbrook community, between the hours of 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. Since the opening of the south gate, HAWL general manager Bruce Devillier said the number of cars that utilize the exit has increased from 50 cars to about 200. The use of the second exit reduced some of the congestion the gated community was experiencing at its front entrance as well as keeping some traffic off of the heavily traveled U.S. 11, Devillier said.

Devillier addressed the council Tuesday morning because he was informed that there is an agreement between HAWL and Picayune City Council for the south gate to only be used during emergencies. He said he is not aware of any such agreement.

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Council member Larry Watkins said when he heard of HAWL opening the gate it was to be used for storm clean up and to avoid the congestion. That situation took place before the light on U.S. 11 was installed and U.S. 11 was recently widened on a small stretch.

“Hopefully the need for it being open is not as great now,” Watkins said.

In addition, Watkins said Cooper Road, the road that the HAWL south gate eventually leads to, is not the safest road especially with the increased traffic. Cooper Road has deep ditches on either side in some parts and is narrow.

Mayor Greg Mitchell said when the south gate was opened into the HAWL, covenants were broken since it is a gated community and to leave the gate open any longer would negate those covenants. Mitchell asked if the south gate could be used in reverse for city and county residents to get to U.S. 11 from Cooper Road. Devillier said it has only been allowed in the past for emergencies.

Shane Whitfield said that his office received many calls from residents inside and outside of HAWL, prompting the meeting with Devillier.

Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown said there are a number of serious accidents in the area of Cooper Road and the increased traffic will only increase those incidents.

Devillier said he expects the community in HAWL to grow by about 300 more homes in the next two years so another exit will be needed. Mitchell said that if the city council can get some work done on Cooper Road, then their request would be considered.

To allow for the adjustment, the city council decided to give the community seven to 10 days to close the south gate. Deliberation between Luke and the council will determine the actual time frame since Luke agreed to provide extra police presence in the area during that time. Mitchell said if another emergency presents itself, then Devillier can present his case to City Manager Ed Pinero and the case will be presented to the police and fire departments before delivering an answer.

In other business the council;

— Approved travel of mayor and council members to Reno, Nev., from Dec. 5-9 to attend National Leagues of Cities Conference.

— Approved docket with corrections noted.

— Authorized mayor and deputy clerk to sign a resolution and map named Picayune Downtown District, which designates the boundaries of the downtown area of the city in order to apply for community development block grant funds for community revitalization.

The next meeting of the Picayune City Council is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19, in the council chambers.