Council members visit D.C., lobby for funds

Published 12:21 am Sunday, March 2, 2008

Council members Jerry Bounds and Anna Turnage traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier this week to request funds needed from the federal government to be used to power a number of projects inside the City of Picayune.

Bounds and Turnage spoke with Sen. Roger Wicker, Sen. Thad Cochran’s Chief of Staff T.A. Hawke and Congressman Gene Taylor, Bounds said.

Some of the requests involved funds to revamp damaged city infrastructure such as streets, gas and sewer lines, fire hydrants and some expansions to the city’s airport, Bounds said. He also said that Hobolochitto Creek needs to be cleared of trees downed by Hurricane Katrina.

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Before the storm, a project was planned to finish the work on Memorial Boulevard. Now the amount of money designated for the job by the Mississippi Department of Transportation is not enough to finish the job with rising property and materials costs, Bounds said. MDOT has earmarked $1.3 million to do the renovation work, but the councilman said the city lobbied for an additional $1.2 million to repave to where Interstate 59 crosses the boulevard.

Currently the $1.3 million designated by MDOT will repave only Memorial Boulevard up to Blanks Avenue. If the city can get the additional $1.2 million requested, it will be enough to finish the work to I-59, where the state takes over maintenance of Mississippi 43, Bounds said.

Other funding requests include airport additions. Those projects would include two larger helicopter pads, and a larger runway so the airport can cater to larger aircraft in emergency situations, Bounds said. The runway expansion would require the airport to acquire 80 more acres, which would allow C-130 aircraft to land at the airport. The expansion will add an additional 1,000 feet in width and an additional 3,000 feet in length to the runway, he said.

The two additional larger helipads would be capable of accommodating helicopters with a 75 foot rotor span, also for emergency situations, Bounds said.

The airport could use more fuel tanks to increase aircraft fuel sales and more T-hangers. The council has requested $1.2 million for all that work at the airport.

A number of resurfacing projects are needed in the city. Repaving Ridge Road to the airport would require $1 million, Bounds said.

“Our city streets have aged 25 years from the debris cleanup,” Bounds said.

Turnage said that while the city has received a grant to repave East Canal from U.S. 11 to the intersection of Blanks Avenue, the two council members requested more funds to resurface that road to its intersection with Miss. 43.

Fire hydrants have suffered some damage from the post-Katrina debris cleanup, Bounds said.

“Now all those problems are starting to bubble up,” the councilman said.

The council has asked for about $200,000 to replace between 75 and 100 of the damaged fire hydrants.

Turnage said overall the city’s requests appeared to have been well received. While an answer will not be given on the requests for some time, Turnage said she recently received an e-mail from Taylor consisting of official request forms to fill out. She took that as a good sign.

“I think it was a pretty productive visit,” Turnage said.