City plans for 2016 improvements

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, December 30, 2015

MAKING PROGRESS: The city of Picayune has plans for the Crosby Commons in 2016. Photo by Ashley Collins.

MAKING PROGRESS: The city of Picayune has plans for the Crosby Commons in 2016. Photo by Ashley Collins.

Picayune city officials met Tuesday to discuss projects aimed at increasing economic development in the New Year. Picayune City Manager Jim Luke said all year the city has made the improvements necessary to continue to grow in 2016.

“I feel blessed to work in the city that I grew up in and work with a great mayor and council. They have vision. All the positive things that are happening in our city are largely due to their vision. And of course my job and many of the department heads’ jobs is to carry out that vision and the daily operations,” Luke said.

In 2016, the city plans to install new features at the Crosby Commons on Goodyear Boulevard.

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Public Works Director Eric Morris said they plan to install a quarter mile walking track around the five-acre property, which was once home to Picayune’s hospital.

“It’ll run the outer perimeter and is projected to be 10 feet wide,” Morris said.

They also plan to add historical markers highlighting the city’s history across the property, Luke said.

The city received an $110,000 grant from the office of MDOT Commissioner Tom King, which will go toward other projected additions including restrooms, decorative cobblestones, a smaller entrance at the Sixth Avenue side of the property, trash receptacles and an outdoor theater.

In 2015, a dedication ceremony was held in June to commemorate the development of Crosby Commons after the city demolished the old hospital and received grants to develop a park. The city installed a security wrought iron fence around the property and recycled turf from Picayune Memorial High School’s football field.

“One of our visions was to purchase the property where the hospital was, demolish the hospital and stay within our budget and be fiscally responsible, so that we can improve the quality of life for our great city,” Luke said.

Several projects that will come to fruition in 2016 involve the city’s Public Works Department. Plans include the completion of the first phase of the Highway 11 expansion project and making improvements on the city’s sidewalks.

Morris said the city is in the final stages of ensuring there aren’t any conflicts with existing utilities that could interfere with the Highway 11 expansion project.

The first phase of the federally funded project will affect Highway 11 from the intersection of Cayten Street to the intersection of Lakeshore Drive.

“We’ve gotten a set of prints from the Mississippi Department of Transportation that shows the footprint of the expansion, and we’ve finally been able to go out, and with surveyor accuracy, determine where the anticipated conflicts are with these utilities. We then did what is called potholing, where we actually dug into the earth to where the utility is located to measure it and determine whether MDOT’s measurements are accurate,” Morris said. “That’s hugely important because many of those utilities will have to be moved at the city’s expense.”

The project is set to begin in November of 2016. Morris said the city has to relocate any obstructing utilities by August.

He also said the cost of the utility relocation could be upward to $600,000.

The department is also working to improve the city’s sidewalks. This past summer,

the city conducted a self-assessment on all the city’s sidewalks in accordance with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration.

What they found was that major improvements were necessary to ensure all members of the community could use the sidewalks safely.

“The assessment was done to determine our ADA compliancy as it pertains to sidewalks and we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Morris said. “We also have a lot of sidewalks that are obstructed, either grass has grown up over the sidewalks, as well as bushes and tree limbs that are obstructing the sidewalk. We’ve got concrete work to be done and our grounds people will work on that during January, February and parts of March.”

Another project set for 2016 involves the use of the remaining $500,000 from an almost $3 million project that retired cast-iron gas pipes citywide. The city plans to use that additional money to upgrade infrastructure in the georesources area, a privately installed gas system in the city for which the city sold gas to, Morris said. The area has a south boundary of Highway 43 North, an east boundary of Inside Road, a west boundary of Dumas Bailey Road and a north boundary of Big Springs Road.

Also, a community development block grant was awarded to the city to upgrade a portion of precinct four’s water system. The project will affect Herrin Drive, Jarrell Street and Weems Street. Morris hopes to begin the project mid-2016.

A project that began in 2015, the safe route to school sidewalk project, will be completed in 2016. The sidewalk will offer students a safe way to walk to and from West Side Elementary, Morris said.

As far as the city’s parks and recreation’s projects go, Picayune’s Director of Parks and Recreation Trevor Adam hopes to continue making progress, especially in Friendship Park.

He plans to continue developing relationships with tournament directors and different organizations to bring large sporting events to Picayune; not just in 2016, but for many years to come.

Those events boost the local economy, Adam said.

“We’re booked almost every weekend from January until August. That’s something that’s never been done here. We’re looking anywhere from a quarter-of-a-million to a million-dollar impact locally,” Adam said. “I always tell people sports is a great outlet, teaches people about life and there’s no better way to learn discipline, team work and how to overcome obstacles, and that’s what we’re trying to build here.”

Adam credits former director Heath Stevens for improving Friendship Park.

“He got the ball rolling, I’m just taking it a little further,” Adam said.

Community members recently installed a handicap accessible swing in Friendship Park, and the splash pad is set to start construction in January.

In another effort to boost the city’s economy, Picayune’s special projects manager Christy Goss said the city is working with retail recruitment firm, Retail Strategies, to aid in the economic development of the city. City officials hired the firm this summer to help bring retailers, developers and commercial brokers to Picayune.

The Picayune Municipal Airport will see changes in 2016. Airport Manager Andy Greenwood said they had a great year and plans to continue that growth in the New Year.

The airport plans to submit an updated Master Plan.

“The plan consists of where we’re at, what’s happening and where we’re going that’ll take us into the future,” Greenwood said.

The plan will be submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration, which awards airport improvement grants.

In the plan is a design of a new taxiway that would allow helicopters to move through the airport without obstructing other aircraft, Greenwood said.

Luke is hopeful for the New Year, saying, “We want Picayune to keep that small town Southern charm feel and become a great place to raise a family.”