McGrew helps city

Published 7:49 pm Thursday, December 27, 2007

During her 34 years of employment with the City of Picayune Barbara McGrew has been involved in applying for untold amounts of money to help fund various developments and projects, improving the city.

McGrew started her career with the City of Picayune in June of 1973 as secretary to the director of the Urban Renewal Department, now known as the Community Development Grant Administration.

Other than a short stint working in the City Clerk’s office when the city downsized office space, McGrew said she has spent most of her city employment in the same department. When she was given the position of application specialist in the Urban Renewal Department she began her long career helping the city to secure a number of grants. Some of the first of the those grants would be used to rehabilitate a number of homes in the, Bruce Street, Rosa Street, and Westside areas.

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The revitalization of Bruce Street, Rosa Street and the Westside area involved tearing down dilapidated homes and rebuilding them. Once the homes were rebuilt the residents then had new housing with wider lots.

“If you lived within that area you were eligible,” McGrew said.

In all about 270 homes were revitalized in that effort which ran from the early 1970’s into the late 1980’s, McGrew said.

While McGrew said Hurricane Katrina’s did not cause a need for Picayune to start a new revitalization program there are areas that could benefit from one.

“I don’t think Katrina increased the need for revitalization, I think it’s always been there,” McGrew said.

In 1993 McGrew took over as the director for the department, now called the Community Development Grant Administration, and has since applied for and secured a number of grants for the city to improve or add to city services. On average her department handles about 20 grants per month, although that number usually entails the same grants each month they all require continued monitoring.

Writing grant applications is not all McGrew’s department does. Even after a grant is awarded McGrew said her department has to keep track of and ensure a number of requirements are met, which are different for each grant.

“There’s nothing boring about this job because you do so many different things,” McGrew said. “I like the challenge of it.”

Another project McGrew helped the city secure was the new airport, which began with the land acquisition in 1992. McGrew said construction of the new airport was paid for with a Federal Aviation Administration grant. A separate grant in the late 1990’s helped fund the airport expansion that now houses Chevron. More grants are on the way for helicopter pads, fueling stations, T-hangers and another expansion.

Economic development is an essential part of McGrew’s job, so she also applies for grants that have helped to fund construction of Picayune’s Industrial Park. Recently one of those grants paid for a new rail spur for Rheogistics while another grant is in the works to provide a rail spur and new road for Bell Avon, McGrew said.

A recent piece of her department’s work is the new train depot, under construction on U.S. 11. Not only will the depot cater to train passengers but bus passengers as well.

“The front is constructed so a bus can come right up to the front door,” McGrew said.

The depot’s expected completion date is Jan. 29, 2008 and while it is expected to work as a central station for ground based travel, other rooms in the depot could serve other purposes such as a planning office. All of the other uses are still tentative, she said.

Other grants she has secured include a $3 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for city sewer infrastructure rehabilitation, a grant for city wide water fluoride treatment, a Mississippi Development Authority grant to help with drainage, flooding and substructure problems and a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant for Friendship Park improvements.

“We’re trying to work our way through Katrina and see where we go from here,” McGrew said.

While McGrew did not write the application for it, Fire Station 1 will soon be replaced via a Community Development Block Grant. Although McGrew said she did not apply for the grant her department will provide the proper monitoring now that it has been awarded. Engineers are currently working on the design for that project as well.