Exchange Club hears about current city programs and future plans

Published 7:00 am Thursday, February 26, 2015

HISTORIC CHANGES: Public Works Director Eric Morris gave a presentation Wednesday afternoon to members of the Picayune Exchange Club. Photo by Jeremy Pittari

HISTORIC CHANGES: Public Works Director Eric Morris gave a presentation Wednesday afternoon to members of the Picayune Exchange Club.
Photo by Jeremy Pittari

Picayune’s Exchange Club heard a presentation from city officials concerning the advancement of projects that are improving the city.
Similar to the presentation provided to members of Picayune Main Street’s board last week, City Manager Jim Luke and Public Works Director Eric Morris updated members of the local Exchange Club about city beautification projects.
To kick off the presentation, Luke began with a story about how he recruited Morris to come to work for the city as the Public Works Director shortly after Luke took over as City Manager.
Morris and Luke previously worked together at the former ammunition plant at John C. Stennis Space Center, Morris said.
Luke said it took three calls on three consecutive days to convince Morris to take the job. His first two attempts were unsuccessful.
However after some consideration, and discussions with his family about the benefits to working close to home, Morris said he eventually took the job.
Upon taking the job, Morris knew there was a lot of work ahead and it would not be completed quickly.
“It’s a huge task. But that’s the enjoyment for me,” Morris said.
In his four years at the helm of the department, Morris has been able to solve many long-standing problems and complete a number of necessary projects, Luke said.
The presentation then moved to the beautification projects, including installation of wreath hangers at the Brick by Brick Memorial at the historic side of City Hall. Morris said the hangers serve three purposes, they provide a place to display wreaths, protect the in-ground lighting and keep children from climbing on the Veteran’s Memorial.
The story behind the placement of the old Crosby Chemicals tanker near the Intermodal Transportation and Tourism Center was also covered. Morris said the tanker was placed there because it’s near the train station, there was enough space, and while installing lighting in that area electric company crews discovered the remnants of historic railroad infrastructure. The crossties found there were part of a 12 rail system used in Picayune’s past for coal transport, and as a train hub. The renovation of the old railcar was funded through the sale of city owned scrap metal and public donations of money and time, Morris said.
A number of decorative signs now grace the historic side of the city’s downtown area. Morris said some of the signs include parts of old signposts, repainted and combined with new decorative bases and tops. By repurposing the posts the city was able to save money on the project, he said.
A theme has also been adopted by the city concerning signage. Signs that utilize black posts are used on streets, while signs with green posts are used at parks, such as the newly named and renovated Mildred Mitchell Park on Sycamore Road.
A number of areas in downtown will also see some new landscaping. The new parking lots and the median at the intersection of West Canal and Mitchell Street will not only feature annual flowers, but the city plans to plant permanent trees such as Emperor Red Maples and Magnolias in those areas. Morris said those trees and plants should be in the ground soon.
Work to the entrance of Crosby Commons will also begin soon, which includes construction of the paved walkway along with brick columns. The columns will be constructed using recycled brick saved from the demolition of the smokestack at the old Crosby Memorial Hospital, which was previously located on that site. Morris estimates that work will begin next week, and should be complete by the middle of April, weather permitting.
Plans to construct a walking track and amphitheater at the park still remain as well.
The long awaited completion of the Memorial Boulevard overlay project is expected to take place soon. Morris said overlay of the small section of Memorial Boulevard should begin within the next couple of months, along with the installation of lighting along Sycamore Road, also known as Highway 43 North. The lights will be installed from the intersection of Highland Parkway to the area of Claiborne Hill. Morris said those lights are planned to work in conjunction with lighting planned for installation with the widening of U.S. 11. When asked about a timeline for the widening of U.S. 11, Morris said the Mississippi Department of Transportation last gave an expected target date of late 2017. However, Morris added that it’s a moving target date.
Maintenance of U.S. 11 is MDOT’s responsibility.

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