Council moves forward with Highway 11 widening preparations in spite of doubts

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Tuesday’s City Council dealt with preparations for the potential widening of Highway 11, necessary work to a road in the city’s industrial park and was again plagued with division concerning applying for grant funding to conduct repairs to parks within the city.

Even though it appears as through city officials are unsure whether long awaited widening of  Highway 11 will take place soon, as promised by the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the Council is abiding by requests from the state agency to have its ducks in a row.

To meet requests set forth by MDOT, the city approved a motion to establish an interlocal agreement with the Pearl River County Utility Authority so when the work does take place, water and sewer services are moved at the same time by the same contractor. The city currently owns water infrastructure while the Utility Authority owns and maintains the wastewater system.

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In order for MDOT to widen the highway, all utilities need to be moved from their current locations.

The Council also approved a motion to advertise for bids for the work to relocate those utilities, with the understanding that no action will be taken to approve a bid until MDOT can assure the city the project will move forward very soon.

In a separate matter, the Council approved a motion to repair Street B in the city’s industrial park. The number of potholes and base failures on the road prompted city crews to dig out the road. Brooks Wallace with Dungan Engineering said assessment of the road determined it needs to be replaced.

He said the work will involve cutting into the base 12 inches to reclaim the asphalt and any base materials, which will be mixed together with water and concrete to create a more suitable base for the traffic it sees today. When it was initially built, the road served as access to a sewer lift station, so it was inadequate for the current traffic of heavy trucks, Public Works Director Eric Morris said.

Wallace estimates it will take six to eight weeks for bids come in and be approved by the Council. When it starts, the work will take about four weeks to complete.

At the end of the meeting, Councilor Larry Breland presented another request to apply for grant funding from the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation to improve city parks, however this time his request included Friendship Park and Ben Taylor Park, which were left out of the previous version.

Discussion was divided, with Gouguet saying he was opposed to applying for grant funding for all parks since that would go against the city’s prior decision to centralize all parks in the city at Friendship Park.

Gouguet went on to counter Breland’s comments that the city never improves other parks in the city, saying that more than $170,000 in improvements was spent at all other parks within the city over the past nine years, not including Friendship Park.

Councilor Tammy Valente also reminded Breland that the Council recently approved the installation of water fountains at parks within his and Councilor Lynn Bogan Bumpers’ precincts.

Bumpers called for the Council to come together as one and think of the kids that use all parks in the city.

When the matter came up for a vote, Bumpers, Breland and Mayor Ed Pinero voted for applying for the grant, while Gouguet, Valente and Councilor Jan Miller Stevens voted against it. The tie vote meant the matter died.

The Council also approved a change order totaling $60,517 to repair additional sections of the roof on the Picayune Police Department.

The next meeting will be April 15, at 5 p.m. in City Hall.