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Council Members Unable to Resolve Dispute Over Grant for Parks

In an eventful meeting, the Picayune City Council tended to a number of matters dealing with city infrastructure on Tuesday night and once again addressed park funding..

The largest portion of the meeting was spent discussing the last item on the agenda: a proposition by Councilman Larry Breland to apply for a grant for improvements at Leola Jordan, J.P. Johnson, Friendship, and Ben Taylor Park. The measure itself is not new and was voted down in prior meetings because of the opposition’s view that Picayune’s parks have been centralized at Friendship Park and that’s where we need to focus.

However, Breland added Friendship Park to the list of parks seeking grant funding, something that he believes should make this an attractive proposition for all members. “We need to do this for the kids,” Breland offered.

In discussion, Councilman Wayne Gouguet objected to the idea of adding more costs to the satellite parks, citing maintenance concerns as the main reason:

“Every time something is given to us, it costs us to maintain it. The free money is great, we just want to use it on Friendship Park. This bill represents new additions which will require more maintenance costs,” Gouguet explained.

“I don’t believe in decentralizing our parks.”

Breland argued that the city neglects the children when it refuses to do anything at parks other than Friendship. Gouguet responded by stating that the council has spent $170,000 on the smaller parks in the last 9 years, investments that include basketball courts, bathrooms, concession stands, and fencing among other things, “so to say that we’re not doing anything there simply isn’t true. My priority is Friendship Park, period.”

The council voted 3-3 and the measure did not pass. Breland, Bumpers, and Mayor Ed Pinero voted for it while Gouguet, Tammy Valente, and Jan Miller Stevens voted against it.

Councilwoman Lyn Bogan Bumpers voiced her frustration at the council’s inability to resolve the issue stating “it’s sad that I don’t even like to come to council meetings and not get anything done. But maybe it will get better.”

The council heard a request related to a crumbling road in the industrial park. Dungan Engineering representative Brooks Wallace asked the council to approve a request to begin developing the engineering plans to repair the foundation and repaving of the top of Street B, located in the industrial park. The current foundation for the road is faulty, and the replacement will consist of 12 inches of a cement mixture and 6 inches of asphalt top. The road stretches 800 feet, and the next step following design is to accept bids. The measure passed.

The council also heard a request to accept bids for the construction of a new taxiway at Picayune Municipal Airport. Wallace explained that the new taxiway would allow the helicopters coming to the Chevron building to avoid the traffic of the normal aviation area. Wallace excitedly noted that the project would be funded through a grant that covers 95% of the costs of the new taxiway, leaving the city to cover only 5%.

The council approved a motion to receive bids for the Highway 11 utility relocation project. This is a necessary step to a bigger project to expand Highway 11. The council was informed that the state would offer grant money to cover some of the costs of the project, but the bids have to be received before the money can be allocated.


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