Repair work slated for the Friendship Park

Published 7:03 pm Friday, June 22, 2007

Friendship park in Picayune finally will get much needed renovations two years after Hurricane Katrina damaged it.

Recently the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved $1.1 million to help fund renovations, such as fixing crooked field light poles. The City of Picayune will be expected to put up 5 to 10 percent of the cost as a match, said Harvey Miller, head of the city’s Grounds, Recreation, Cemetery and Purchasing Agent Department Head.

After the storm, the city had thought about just straightening out the hurricane tilted light poles, but experts with Neel-Schaffer Inc. determined the poles are buried between 25 and 30 feet in the ground, and those poles could be damaged under the ground. Miller said the architect and engineering firm estimated the cost to conduct those and other improvements at about $1.1 million.

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The city plans to use the approved FEMA funding to replace all of the old creosote poles with concrete poles. Two other areas of improvement — field fencing and repairs to canopies over spectator stands — also will be addressed with the funding.

“They’re in terrible shape,” Miller said.

The decision to replace the treated wood poles with concrete poles was easy after the park’s existing concrete poles fared so well in the storm. Miller said only readjustment of the lights was required on the concrete light poles after the storm.

If bids for work come in a bit higher than the projected $1.1 million, Miller said FEMA has indicated they would be able to cover the difference. The city will be expected to match 5 to 10 percent of the cost, he said.

“To get new lights, canopy and fencing, that is really a deal,” Miller said.

Since the storm the city has done some minor work at the park, such as building new dugouts, to get the games going again.

Work on the fencing, canopies and lights is expected to begin sometime in October or November, which should allow enough time for the bidding process, Miller said.

About 1,000 children use Friendship Park for various recreational sporting activities. Among them are girls and boys softball, baseball, soccer and little league football. Miller said about 90 percent of the year the park is used for sporting activities.

It has taken this long to get funding approved for the work because parks and recreation were low on FEMA’s priority list. Immediately after the storm it was more pertinent to provide people with housing and other crucial needs, Miller said.

Other additions to the park, things planned separatly from the FEMA funding, include a new concession stand, making for a total of three at the park, and possibly adding basketball goals added to the tennis courts.