City Council thrown a 'curve ball' on proposed BP project
Major League Baseball returned to action last month with some surprises and during last night’s meeting of the Picayune City Council, it looked like the council was thrown a curve ball as well.
The council had held a workshop and previously discussed the projects that would be submitted by the City of Picayune as part of the BP settlement funds (Mississippi Gulf Coast Restoration Fund) for the six southern counties of Mississippi. One of the projects, as previously presented to the council, was a request to extend East Jerusalem Avenue from Memorial Blvd to a property owned by Resurrection Life Ministry Church.
When the project was brought to the council to approve it and move forward with submitting it for the BP funds, it was presented in terms which were not what the council had agreed to previously. Councilman Wayne Gouguet was taken off guard when he reviewed what Jonathan Hickman, of Dungan Engineering / City’s Engineering Office, was presenting for the East Jerusalem project versus what was agreed upon before.
Gouguet said his understanding was the project was to bring the road to the Resurrection Life owned property near the end of East Jerusalem, but what Hickman was presenting had changed drastically. Hickman explained the change.
“After having a meeting with (State Senator) Angela Hill and Stacey Wilkes (State Representative), they determined that Phase I would be best going to Telly Road.”
Gouguet promptly responded, “It would have been good if you all would have told the council that. We get this five minutes before the meeting. Before it (the project cost) was $2 million, now what’s the cost, what are we submitting as the cost on the 28th?” Gouguet asked.
“Phase I is $2.75 million and Phase II is $4.5 million to bring it to a total $7.25 million,” Hickman stated.
Gouguet asked if the city is submitting Phase II at this time and Hickman said that was what was suggested by Sen. Hill and Rep. Wilkes
Gouguet clarified that the city would have to provide a 20 percent match if approved which is approximately $1.45 million for the East Jerusalem. Gouguet then verified with Hickman that the other projects the city was submitting (Walmart Roundabout and Friendship Park) had not changed.
Gouguet calculated, that if by some very odd occurrence, all of the projects were to be approved, the city would be obligated for $2.6 million match as part of their 20 percent match.
City Clerk Amber Hinton, when asked by Gouguet, if the city could afford the match if all three projects were awarded, concurred the city would not have the cash reserve and would have to look for other means of funding including possible grant opportunities.
Councilperson Tammy Valente, who like Gouguet, was caught off guard with the changes to East Jerusalem application, said she had done her homework and reached out to Sen. Hill prior to the meeting for her opinion and insight. Valente said Hill told her the chances of the city receiving funding for all three projects is slim to none chance the city would get all three projects funded. Councilperson Jan Miller-Stevens shared the same thoughts as Valente and felt the council should move forward in the submission of all three projects.
Gouguet made a final point that someone made the decision, not the council, to go in with a Phase I and Phase II on the East Jerusalem project, because to his knowledge and memory of prior meetings and discussions, the council previously voted only for the project to connect to the Resurrection property.
Gouguet asked Mayor Ed Pinero if he understand what he (Gouguet) was saying and the mayor said, “100 percent understand what you are saying.”
After a brief discussion with City Attorney Nathan Farmer and City Clerk Amber Hinton, it was determined the council could move forward. Gouguet, while not happy the way this was presented to the council, said he did not want to miss the filing deadline and was in agreement to move forward with the projects as noted during the meeting.
The council voted to approve resolutions for the East Jerusalem, Walmart, and Friendship Park to be submitted and voted to commit to the 20 percent match.