City officials, employees get a look at downtown revitalization plans

Published 11:32 pm Thursday, February 5, 2009

A large project is expected to begin in a few months with the aim of revitalizing some areas of the city in need of attention.

The Downtown Revitalization Project is funded 100 percent by grant funds and will involve paving work to a main thoroughfare and beautification and renovation work to two major parks.

City officials and employees met with representatives of Neel-Schaeffer, the engineering company hired to create plans for the work, to get an update and tweak the preliminary plans. Neel-Schaeffer representative Jeffery Lee said this way everyone in the city gets the most for the money.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

When the topic of working on the walking track came up, council member Jerry Bounds said he would like to see a better walking track for city residents. The current walking track on Goodyear Boulevard poses a safety hazard for those using it, especially when cars line the busy street, covering the walking track, Bounds said.

“I would like to see us put a walking track at Friendship Park,” Bounds said.

When Neel-Schaeffer representative Jeffery Lee mentioned that it would cost more money, Bounds suggested getting some grants from Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation, especially since that organization received money to fund their grants from the sale of Crosby Memorial Hospital. Since the money came from Picayune, it should be spent in Picayune instead of in other areas such as Poplarville, Bounds said.

Other projects included in the downtown revitalization effort involve renovation of the Shay and Jack Reed Parks and overlay of East Canal Street. The overlay has been increased from the original plan and now would run between its intersections with U.S. Highway 11 in downtown Picayune and Mississippi Highway 43 South. The original plan only involved overlay only as far as Loftin Avenue.

Work at the two parks will involve increasing the walkways, decorative landscaping, renovated or rebuilt structures and a cover for the historic Shay engine at the Shay Park.

After looking at some of the preliminary plans supplied by the engineering firm, comments were sought from city officials and employees.

The overlay of East Canal Street will involve only overlay. No drainage or other improvements are planned, Lee said. Bounds said he was happy to hear the road was getting the overlay and new striping, which will make it safer.

Sidewalks along West Canal also will be improved, possibly making them handicapped accessible, Lee said.

At Shay Park, the gazebo will be renovated and brick paving and other decorative landscaping work will be done to beautify the area, Neel-Schaeffer representative Russ Bryan said. Bounds asked whether the monument, previously located at the park and removed after Hurricane Katrina damaged it, could be replaced during the work. Main Street Manager Reba Beebe said the monument, which honored the people who donated funds to move the old engine to its current location, was damaged beyond repair. She suggested the firm could replace one of the decorative brick sidewalk inlays planned for the park with a new monument that would include the same names as the first.

Where benches are planned for installation at the Shay Park, Beebe suggested using the same kinds of benches already in the Main Street area. A structure to cover the Shay is also in the plans. Beebe said the structure is needed to extend the life of the deteriorating train engine. Asphalt will be used to pave the parking lot at the park, which is next to Picayune’s Chamber of Commerce office.

Work at Jack Read Park will involve possible reconstruction of the pavilion. Initial plans called for renovation of the pavilion, but given its current dilapidated state, Interim City Manger Harvey Miller and Bounds agreed it needs to be torn down and rebuilt with the same look in mind. Bounds also asked for an outdoor sound system to be installed in the new pavilion and for the front of the pavilion to have a two- to three-foot section of the stage of the structure to protrude, allowing audience members to clearly see persons on stage.

Jack Read Park also is slated for paving, landscaping and beautification work. Public Works Director Chad Frierson asked if it is possible that the park could feature a wireless Internet system. Bryan said if the park did include such a system, it would have to be housed in an enclosed structure.

The total for the planned work is about $2.7 million, which includes engineering fees, Lee said. That cost will be covered with grant funds. Staying within the budget was taken into consideration as changes to the plans were suggested.

Work on the project is not expected to interfere with the Spring Street Fair scheduled for April 4 and 5. Miller expects the work to begin about three months from now after bids are advertised and accepted.