Aldermen get inventory list for city street repair
NATCHEZ — A motion from a Natchez alderman to pave what city officials deemed the worst street in the city prompted a somewhat bumpy discussion about street repairs at Tuesday’s aldermen meeting.
Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard made a motion to use $57,000 of the road and bridge tax money the city receives from the county each year to repair Park Place, which ranked No. 1 in worst street condition in a street inventory list compiled by the Natchez Engineering Department.
Dillard said he believed Park Place was in such condition that it could be declared an emergency situation.
Ward 2 Aldermen Ricky Gray asked to table the motion so the aldermen could discuss the issue, since the board did not know Dillard was going to request the road repair at the meeting.
“We’ve been getting along too well to start something like this,” Gray said.
Prior to the Park Place discussion, Ward 5 Alderman Mark Fortenbery expressed frustration that certain wards, particularly Wards 1 and 2, always seem to get more attention and tax dollars than other wards. That frustration came after Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis made a motion that passed to obligate $150,000 toward the completion of the North Natchez Drainage Project at the request of City Engineer David Gardner.
Gardner informed the board during its finance meeting before the regular meeting that the grate drainage design used on Buckner Avenue had been approved Monday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to be used in the Marblestone area, Brown’s Addition, Brookview Lane, Old Smith’s Lane, the remainder of Daisy and Inez streets.
The city had requested to use the rest of the project money — which was not previously used because the engineering department cut costs to save money — to use the Buckner Avenue design concept on those streets.
Gardner said the money would require a 25-percent match, or approximately $150,000.
When Fortenbery said there were other parts of the city that needed attention, Mathis said up until now, the city has not had to put up any money for the drainage project.
Mathis also pointed out that the $13 million project has been ongoing for more than 10 years. Mayor Butch Brown agreed and said the $150,000 would allow the city to finish a project that has lingered for years.
Gardner partially eased Fortenbery’s concerns when he said that the city might not have to pay anything for the match if it can cut the costs down.
“Poor old Ward 6 is not receiving any money,” Dillard said, agreeing with Fortenbery. “It isn’t part of the (Natchez) Trails (Project); it doesn’t qualify for a (Community Block Development Grant). It only qualifies for hard luck, and you’re going to have to pull it up by your bootstraps and (pay for your own repairs).”
Dillard told Gray that Ward 2 had been the benefactor of a great deal of federal funding.
“Surely you won’t begrudge me $57,000?”
“I don’t have a problem with it, but I think we have a process for doing it,” Gray said. “I can’t help that I represent lower-income people, and they qualify for CBDG.”
Ward 3 Sarah Smith asked that the matter be tabled so a work session could be scheduled for the aldermen to further discuss a plan to address the streets on the inventory list.
Smith said she was also not familiar with how much was in the road and bridge fund and for what the money was used.
Gardner said public works currently has the money committed to the purchase of equipment.
“If you pull that money, we’re going to have to redo (public works’) budget,” he said.
Dillard said that he wasn’t sure that ad valorem tax could be used to purchase equipment.
Brown disagreed and questioned whether the city even had a separate road and bridge fund.
City Clerk Donnie Holloway said the city does not, but Dillard pointed out in a budget he was holding that there was a fund account for the road and bridge money.
Mathis said that she does not want to see the aldermen breaking the needs of the city down racially. She went on to explain that board of aldermen passed a motion in a previous administration for the road and bridge money to be placed in public works’ budget to be used for street maintenance.
Gardner also told Dillard that he has been working to get Park Place qualified for the federal urban aid program so it would be eligible for federal funding.
Smith pointed out that the total estimated cost of repairing Park Place would be more than $164,000.
Dillard withdrew his motion in light of the discussion and planned work session and “with hopes that we do this before my term expires.”
The street inventory list ranks 405 streets or sections of streets in order of condition. The list factors in traffic volume and other variables.
The list also highlights streets that are eligible for micro-surfacing, which is recommended for use of roadways that are in the early stage of deterioration, Gardner said. It is not recommended for badly deteriorated streets, he said.
Micro-surfacing is a planned strategy of cost effective, non-structural treatment to existing pavements that preserves the current condition of the pavement and delays future deterioration.
Gardner stressed that inventory rankings are simply a guide, and that the aldermen will ultimately decide in what order streets are repaired.
“I don’t want people to get false hope and say ‘Oh, well I’m on the highest ranked, so I’m definitely going to get done because that may not be the case,” he said.
The top 10 ranking streets are:
-Park Place, from Auburn Avenue to Magnolia Place
-Park Place, from Ratcliff to Auburn
-East Franklin Street
-Jefferson Davis Boulevard
-John Glenn Drive
The top 10 streets that are eligible for micro-surfacing are:
-Live Oak Drive
For a full list of the street inventory, visit natchezdemocrat.com.