There’s a new judge in townPublished 12:14am Wednesday, January 23, 2013
NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez Tuesday officially named the judge of its new environmental court where owners of dilapidated houses, litterbugs and other city code violators will face their violations.
Local lawyer Anthony Heidelberg was officially elected as municipal judge pro tem by the Natchez Board of Aldermen at its regular meeting. Heidelberg was immediately sworn in by Judge Vincent Davis after the board’s unanimous vote.
The environmental court will operate similar to a traffic court and will hear violations for nuisance properties, abandoned vehicles, littering and similar offenses.
The city has been looking at ways to prosecute litter violation cases faster, and the mayor and board of aldermen concluded that the court was the best solution.
The court will eliminate the need for the board of aldermen having to adjudicate nuisance properties. The city, City Attorney Hyde Carby has said, will still have the opportunity to file tax liens to collect clean-up costs owed by property owners, if the city chooses to do so.
In the past, Mayor Butch Brown has said, the city was improperly filing tax liens and was not recouping costs for cleaning up properties.
Carby said the city’s code enforcement staff will identify violations and issue citations as a warning to violators, who will be given a certain amount of time to correct the violation.
If the violation is not corrected, the violator will be served a summons by a Natchez police officer to appear in the environmental court.
The city’s community improvement specialist, Anita Smith, and code enforcement officer Willie B. Jones will serve as the state’s witness to present evidence of code violations to the court, Carby said. Heidelberg said a prosecutor for the court has not yet been chosen.
The court should be up and running by the latter part of February, Heidelberg said. He said court will be at 4:30 or 5 p.m. the first and third Monday of every month in the Natchez City Council Chambers.
Brown has said the city estimates that the court will cost $2,000 to $3,000 a month to operate.
Carby has told the aldermen that the idea is for the court to pay for itself and be a net gain for the city.