Squeak and the government wheel may turn
What does it take to get some of the city’s worst streets patched and repaired?
Evidently it takes consistent and constant complaining from residents to the aldermen, the mayor and anyone else who will lend an ear.
Just ask any of the people who live on Woodville Drive, Roselawn Drive, Orange Avenue, West Stiers Lane and Vine Street.
If you don’t think residents are frustrated over the condition of city infrastructure, all you have to do is visit any of those five streets the aldermen voted to fix during Tuesday’s regular meeting.
I know, because I traveled to each street Tuesday evening to photograph them for Wednesday’s edition. In three of five locations, residents promptly asked why I was taking pictures in their neighborhood.
What I first assumed were civic-minded residents watching out for suspicious activity in their neighborhoods were instead frustrated homeowners looking for anyone who might be able to respond to their exasperated pleas for action.
“I have lived in that house since I was 9 years old,” one resident said to me as she pointed down Vine Street. “I am 52 now, and in that time this road has been paved over one time.”
She stressed the “one time” by raising her index finger just inches in front of my face.
The small, narrow street steadily drops from Marin Avenue and has no turn around room for the school buses and ambulances that visit the neighborhood regularly, the resident pointed out.
“I have done everything I can to get (the mayor and board of aldermen) to listen,” she said.
So, too, has the lady on Woodville Drive who stopped me as I stepped from my car to take pictures of the street behind Natchez Ford.
“I have done everything I can do,” the resident said as she went down the list of city officials to whom she has talked over the years to get the pock-marked road in front of her house fixed.
By the time I reached Orange Avenue, I was not surprised when a man flagged me down to talk about the large depression near the intersection with Main Street.
In all three cases, residents explained how much time and energy they have personally spent to get their streets repaired. Until Tuesday, it seemed as if all of their complaining was not being heard.
Unfortunately that is the street repair program for the City of Natchez — the squeaky wheel plan. If you squeak loud enough and long enough then maybe your pothole, flooding problem or narrow street will get fixed.
Unless you live on a major thoroughfare that is eligible to receive grant money, it may be the only way to go.
Ward 6 alderman Dan Dillard alluded to the problem Tuesday. The city has no street maintenance program. It doesn’t have an inventory of city streets that identifies which ones need immediate attention. The city doesn’t prioritize which streets need work and which ones do not.
Dillard also pointed out that much of the tax money collected for capital improvements — like street repairs and drainage projects — is going to match grants for bigger projects.
“It is hard to tell someone who has lived on a street for 25 years and paid their taxes and tell them that there is no money available for them for street repairs,” Dillard said.
Once again, instead of planning, the aldermen are reacting.
Until the city develops a plan the only recourse residents have is to squeak away.
Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at email@example.com.