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Council accepts Beech Street project as completed

On Tuesday at the Picayune City Council meeting, Mayor Ed Pinero, Jr., received permission from the City Council to sign an acceptance letter, covering the $400,000 Beech Street refurbishing and upgrading project as essentially complete.

The project, officially known as “the Beech Street Overlay, Project No. STP-0400-00(024) LPA 106004-70100,” was done by Huey Stockstill, Inc., of Picayune, and has seen a major upgrade on a major thoroughfare — Beech Street — in West Picayune.

The paving overlay and upgrading of sidewalks runs from Jackson Landing Road to the western end of Goodyear Boulevard, or about 1.5 miles, and along the route are three churches, South Side Elementary School, the Early Headstart Center, Snyder Park which is a major ball field and recreational park, several housing authority public residential developments, several subdivisions, and three quick stops.

“It was a major project, and turned out real nice,” said project engineer Brooks Wallace at Tuesday’s council meeting.

“And it came in, about $30,000 under budget,” Wallace said, adding that all that remains on the project is striping.

Funds for the project came from federal funds on an 80-20 matching basis with the city putting up 20 percent.

After the city began the project, officials who were inspecting it, told Picayune officials that the dilapidated sidewalks along the route would have to be improved to ADA compliance standards, which caused the project to be upgraded even further.

The project amounts to an overall facelift for the major north-south thoroughfare through West Picayune. Drivers use the road to avoid traffic congestion through the middle of town, and to avoid the railroad tracks that are sometimes blocked downtown.

The road terminates on the southern end at Holcomb’s Crossing on U.S. Highway 11 South and on the northern end at Mississippi Highway 43 North.

The sidewalks make the project more “pedestrian friendly,” Wallace told the council.

New federal guidelines prompted the reworking of the sidewalks. On federal projects, federal guidelines don’t call for installation of sidewalks, but if they are there, they have to be improved to federal standards, said Wallace.

On another matter, Eric Morris, public works director, told the council that the gas and water amnesty program was beneficial, and that a rewards program, or what some have called a “snitch program,” implemented on June 1 is working, too.

The programs were implemented to help locate water and gas meters that are not being read, or customers who don’t have meters between their home and the city’s main lines.

The reward program pays residents up to $1,000 who report residents or businesses they know are not paying for gas or water service.

Morris told the council that the programs are “definitely a success so far.”

Prior to implementing the reward program, the council offered a program whereby residents not paying who turned themselves in, would be granted amnesty. That program is over and those found now who are not paying for city utility service will face prosecution for stealing gas and/or water from the city.

Morris told the council that under the amnesty program three residents turned themselves in, one for gas and two for water.

As of Monday, in the reward program, one gas and two water reports came in, said Morris.

“The reports were legitimate reports, and there will be rewards issued for them,” Morris told council members.

In a letter sent out last week to gas and water customers, the city announced its reward program, which began on June 1 and will expire on June 30. Reward for information on non-paying gas and water users run up to $1,000 and will be paid directly to the informant with a city check. Tips can be phoned in at 311, the letter said.

Those found to be illegally receiving city-owned natural gas or water “will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. . .,” the letter said.

In other matters on Tuesday, the council:

— Accepted an $8,000 donation from HRL Contracting to be used for new basketball courts at East Canal Street and J.P. Johnson parks and accepted a donation from Huey Stockstill, Inc., for the cost of concrete to be used at the parks.

— Accepted a 2012-13 Stop Violence Against Women Act grant award.

— Declared, in a short public hearing, as public nuisances land parcels on Taylor Street, 210 No. Haugh Ave., 220 No. Haugh Ave., and 315 Mitchell St., and set another public hearing for July 17 for parcels at 807 Carter, South Main, Hwy. 11 So., 2612 Jackson Landing Rd., Goodyear Blvd., 802 Third Ave., 715 Glenwood Dr., 210 Grave St., Warren Street, No. Blanks Ave., 810 Lakewood, 1106 Jackson Landing Rd., 1310 Nutter Drive, Neal Rd., and 6th Ave. By declaring a property a public nuisance, the city then has the legal right to clean it up and then charge the cleanup fee back to the landowner.

— Accepted the donation of an antique railroad cargo trailer from Jerry Asher to the city railroad museum.

— Approved a security services agreement between the City of Picayune and the Picayune school board for the 2012-13 school year.

— Went into executive session to discuss personnel and litigation matters.

— Recessed to a June 17 public hearing concerning property clean-up.