Picayune Main Street grants to better the county

Published 1:28 am Sunday, January 6, 2008

Pearl River County will benefit from a number of grants gained through the efforts of Picayune Main Street’s manager.

One of the most recent fruits of Picayune Main Street manager Reba Bebee’s labor is the recently approved South Mississippi Tourism Industry Restoration Grant. Bebee said the grant stemmed from a need to restore tourism after Hurricane Katrina damaged the state’s six coastal counties. Since Pearl River County does not have a Tourism Council, Bebee said Picayune Main Street was able to apply for and receive the grant.

The grant will help pay for printing county maps, a calendar of events and points of interest to be distributed in a number of Mississippi Welcome Centers. The $76,928.50 grant will pay to print about 100,000 of the pamphlets. Additionally, it will help pay for advertising expenses for events such as Picayune Main Street’s Shop By Candlelight, the Picayune Chamber’s Chili Cookoff and Poplarville’s Blueberry Jubilee, Bebee said.

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“Anything that (adds) tourism and will make Pearl River County a driving destination,” Bebee said.

Bebee’s next application will request a grant that should help Picayune Main Street gain technical knowledge and apply for other grants. A $70,000 Technical Support grant will help purchase software, pay for workshop training and help cover the Main Street organization’s dues, which amount to about $2,000 a year, she said.

The Technical Support grant also will provide Picayune Main Street an opportunity to apply for a Facade grant, which will help Main Street members renovate their business exteriors, Bebee said.

The Technical Support Grant also can help Bebee form a Low Interest Loan Approval program. The program would be available to help business owners secure affordable loans from lending institutions.

A future project Bebee said she is working on is making Picayune a Certified Local Government. If successful, Picayune’s historic landmarks would be eligible for 100 percent grants to perform restoration work, which could have saved some pieces of Picayune’s history that have been demolished.

Picayune is one of the few places in Mississippi that has a historic mural in its post office, but it’s covered by a layer of paint. Bebee said she would like to apply for a grant to pay for a process that would remove only that layer of paint, restoring the historic mural for all to see.

One grant could provide walkers and bicyclers with a safe place to get some exercise. If approved, a Mississippi Department of Transportation grant could provide funds to build a pedestrian and bike trail. A location for the trail still has to be determined, Bebee said.

Picayune Main Street was recently awarded a $2 million Mississippi Development Authority grant that will fund a number of city improvements. Some improvements include new light posts and sidewalks for the down town business district and a board walk for people to cross the train tracks on Canal Street during street fairs. The grant also could help build a walkway from the new train depot leading to Main Street, luring potential shoppers to Picayune’s business district.

The MDA grant also would fund projects to improve Jack Read Park. Katrina damaged the park’s pavilion and it still needs repairs. Other aesthetic and lighting projects would make the park more appealing.

“We’re going to put some more lights over there because it is dark,” Bebee said.

The iconic Shay , the antique train in the middle of town on U.S. 11, will also benefit from the grant with the completion of its wrought iron fence.