Picayune considers new fire station

Published 9:27 am Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Picayune City Council met Tuesday and discussed, among other things, the possible construction of a new fire station at the end of Goodyear Boulevard on Beech Street.

The fire station, if and when it is built, will replace station No. 3, on Palestine Road. Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown said the new station would likely be built at a discount to the city as the state insurance office gives the department money each year for new fire trucks. The last new truck will be paid off next year, and Brown told the council he could probably go a few years without buying new trucks. He

said he would put the insurance rebate money toward construction of a new fire station.

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During Tuesday’s meeting the council was informed that the problems with the Palestine station are not new.

“Every year, for the last five or six years, we’ve asked for money to redo station three, which is out on Palestine,” Brown said.

He added that despite a patchwork of repairs, the building is still in disrepair.

“We’ve pieced and pieced and we’re at the point where we can’t piece anymore,” he said. “It’s totally dilapidated.”

Councilman Wayne Gouguet asked when the construction might get started.

“We’re hoping, if everything goes right, maybe we can start next year,” he said.

Besides a discount on the building itself, the city will get the land at a discount. Today the land at the end of Goodyear, which at one time housed the railroad museum, is owned by the state. City Attorney Nathan Farmer said the land is in the state’s possession because of unpaid taxes, but the city can request the state hand it over to the city.

“The city won’t have to pay for this. Basically we can make a request and through a land patent or a quitclaim deed we can utilize it however we want to,” said Farmer.

The council also looked at changing some 2010 zoning laws that at present make numerous small pieces of real estate impossible to build on.

Before the council were two requests to amend zoning ordinances related to non-conforming lots in Picayune. Non-conforming lots are lots too small to build upon but at one time were part of a subdivision. At present, if someone has a non-conforming lot, there is little the person can do with it, as it is too small to legally develop. The request would allow some development on the lots.

Farmer explained that because the lots are too small to build on, some owners neglect them, fail to pay taxes on them and they become a public burden. But, under the proposals, owners could find a use for the lots.

“If you have a lot like that and the city could give adjustments to you so you could build on it and develop it, it would get it back on the tax rolls,” Farmer explained to the council.

Gouguet recommended the council table the recommendations until the city’s planning commission has a chance to look at the proposals. The council voted to do this, and it’s likely the two requests will return on the city council’s agenda at the next meeting.

Finally the council also heard from some homeowners who are upset their homes were damaged in floods years ago.

One man, Arthur William, addressed the council. William has a two-story home on Loftin Street in Picayune, and said that he and other homeowners have been waiting for years on a FEMA grant that has yet to materialize. The reason the money hasn’t materialized is because the federal government wants a 25 percent match.

Mayor Ed Pinero said the county applied for that grant and he directed the homeowners toward the Board of Supervisors, but Williams said that at the board’s Monday meeting, the board suggested the city contribute to the match funds to help them afford the $300,000 match fees.

“They said the grant was there but they didn’t have the 25 percent,” said William of FEMA. “FEMA said I couldn’t get 75 percent until the county or the city gets together and pays their part.

“The county said they don’t have any money. Plus they said I need to be dealing with people in the city.”

Pinero blamed Washington, D.C.

“The money was granted to the county,” Pinero said. “The problem is, the federal government is now requesting $300,000 in cash from the county, and that’s not what they signed up for. I know, I was there. The county signed up for the proposal of in-kind contributions. That’s what we discussed.”

Pinero said the contract the county returned to Washington specified that work the homeowners did themselves would count toward the in-kind contribution, but when the contract came back from the feds, it demanded cash.

“The contract is different than it was submitted,” said Pinero. “Obviously nobody has that budgeted.”

Gouguet suggested William call Congressman Steven Palazzo.

The next city council meeting will be Oct. 20 at 5 p.m. at City Hall.