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Aldermen discuss strategy for street repairs

NATCHEZ — Fix what’s broken, save what’s in danger — that’s the apparent plan the Natchez Board of Aldermen came to Tuesday during a discussion on how to fix the city’s crumbling streets.

During a work session in which no official action was taken, three aldermen — Mark Fortenbery, Sarah Smith and Dan Dillard — expressed support for the idea of using half of the city’s casino lease payments to fund a mix of street work. Magnolia Bluffs Casino pays the city $1 million annually to lease the property on which it is located at the bottom of Roth Hill Road.

The street plan discussed would repair some of the worst streets from the city’s street inventory while also doing micro-sealing maintenance on streets that are in danger of becoming bad. The street inventory — which was completed six months ago — ranks the streets from worst to best.

“The combination is a perfect scenario because you are saving what is savable and you are addressing the worst need,” Smith said.

City Engineer David Gardner said micro-sealing a mile of roadway costs approximately 22 percent of the total cost of asphalting. The worst roads would have to be asphalted, he said, but many of the roads in the street inventory can be maintained with a microseal.

“The microseal prolongs the (street) life, it gives it a good skid resistance factor and it gives it the appearance of a new look,” Gardner said.

“The microseal has polymers where it sets very fast and you can drive on it in 20-30 minutes. I am saying go through with the microseal because you can open the streets quicker.”

While Smith and Dillard especially advocated repairing streets based on how they were ranked in the inventory, Alderman Tony Fields expressed some reservations, saying he thought it would be more equitable to split the annual street funding evenly among the city’s wards.

“Fair is fair, and I agree with fair and I agree with equal representation, but if you have got a more serious problem in the city, rather than just stack it by ward you have got to address it,” Mayor Butch Brown said. “If I raise $1.25 million to fix (a drainage structure on) Highland Boulevard, does that mean that I have to raise $1.25 million for the next ward?”

Gardner told the aldermen the best course of action for the streets that have to be completely asphalted is to stick with the street inventory.

“You want to stay close to ranking because you need to get to those streets first because if you wait around, it is going to cost you more in the long run if you don’t take care of those streets,” Gardner said. “They are on the verge of costing you a lot of money.”

Alderman Rickey Gray also expressed concern that some streets were not ranked as highly as he thought they should be. Smith responded that while the inventory weighted the street rankings by condition — condition was given a 65 percent weight in the ranking — traffic volume was also given consideration.

“Your streets that are traveled the most have to be fixed a little quicker because they are going to get worse when they have a thousand trucks going over them,” Smith said.

The aldermen also said they would want to see the city’s audit before committing to a final plan of financing for the repairs.