Tuesday’s meeting of the Picayune City Council’s raised the ongoing ire for councilman Larry Breland when it comes to parks and where money is being spent. In the past few months, Breland has openly voiced his displeasure with other council members when it comes to how and where money is being spent in the city of Picayune in regards to parks and recreation.
On Tuesday when Public Works Director Eric Morris (pictured) gave the council details of the latest work performed at Friendship Park, particularly safety issues at the Kid’s Kingdom playground area. Morris pointed out the corrective actions taken after he and his department walked the entire area to assess what needed to be done to alleviate the concerns that had been presented to the city by citizens.
Morris said there were repairs made to rotten wood on walking surfaces, fasteners that needed to be replaced, some bracing that needed to be done, painting, cosmetic masonry repairs, new swings were installed, repairs to the splash pad (water sprinklers), and mulch. Morris said he contacted a local tree service and that business donated all of their wood chips produced from their companies work to be used as mulch at Kid’s Kingdom.
According to Morris, the mulch had not been replenished for many years and it was very thin in most places, missing in others, and generally was not existent. By using the chips as mulch from the business owner’s donation, Morris stated there was a cost savings of around $6,000 realized.
Morris said that they also started the restriping of the roads in Friendship Park and will restripe the parking areas as well.
Breland said that safety is the main thing (addressing the work Morris’ and his team performed), but, as he has done many times, appeared to challenge the spending at Friendship Park. He asked Morris how much was spent on this work and Morris responded he was not sure, but reiterated he and his department are being extremely frugal as was evident in the savings on the cost of the mulch.
Council members Tammy Valente, Larry Breland, & Jan Miller-Stevens listening to Morris
Breland then told the other council members, as well as the mayor and City Manager Jim Luke that he wanted that information at the next meeting. Breland also told Luke that he wanted to know the safety issues at all the parks in the city.
Breland revisited the council’s vote from months back to not apply for a grant from Pearl River Valley Foundation. Breland wanted the “free” money to fix all parks across the city.
Morris responded to Breland telling him that Kid’s Kingdom at Friendship Park is unlike any other structure in the city.
“You’ve got a play area that is 100 percent wood that is 100 percent encompassed around the bottom of it with mulch, and mulch does what mulch does best, it holds moisture in the ground, which causes rot. You have some unique safety issues at Kid’s Kingdom that we have now resolved,” Morris stated.
Morris told Breland that his department is addressing safety issues in the city at all parks and gave Breland examples of recent work at both Snyder and J.P. Johnson Park.
He added, “I’m not saying there are not safety hazards at any of the other parks, but if there’s anything significant, I’m not aware of it and I feel like we have done a pretty good job to address those as they came about. I think the thrust (work) that was put into Kid’s Kingdom is because it is unique facility, a unique structure, that requires a lot more hands on maintenance that was just a little bit overdue.”
Breland asked Morris if the wood at Kid’s Kingdom was treated wood and Morris responded that he thought it was or it wouldn’t have lasted the way it did. Councilman Wayne Gouguet added about the wood “Ust
Breland then told Morris that his remarks were not anything against his department, but his contention was that the council had a chance some months ago to look at “free” money and voted not to apply. Breland said he’s trying to understand why people are talking about doing fundraisers now instead of applying for a grant and free money.
Morris told Breland that he didn’t take his comments the wrong way.