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City postpones budget adoption; aldermen choose to wait for city clerk

NATCHEZ With unanswered questions and an absent city clerk, the Natchez Board of Aldermen postponed adopting a new budget Tuesday until today.

City Attorney Hyde Carby suggested that the board recess its Tuesday meeting until today when City Clerk Donnie Holloway could be present.

Carby noted that it would not be ideal for the board to try to adopt a budget when the man who prepares the budget was not at the meeting.

Mayor Butch Brown said after the meeting Holloway was out of town Tuesday attending a meeting of the Mississippi Municipal Clerks and Tax Collectors Association.

The city must have a budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year adopted by Oct. 1, the first day of the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Brown said he and some members of the board of aldermen still have questions for Holloway regarding the budget.

The issue, Brown said, of whether the board will adopt a $37 million budget as Holloway presented at the budget public hearing or adopt the $34 million as publicly advertised for the hearing needs to be resolved before today’s vote.

Brown said he prefers to adopt the budget as advertised and amend it later, which would not further delay adopting a budget.

Brown said the board also has questions about the city’s group insurance plan, which Holloway apparently never brought to the board for review and approval.

“It’s a $2 million expenditure that (Holloway) never even brought to the board’s attention,” he said.

The plan has in the past been $2 million, but Brown said he believes the rates are going down for the upcoming fiscal year.

The current insurance plan, he said, expires Sept. 30.

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard has questions about changes in millage for various programs.

The board will meet at 4 p.m. today in the Natchez City Council Chambers.

In other news from the meeting:

• The board approved a rezoning request from Danny Cowart of Brandi’s Hope Community Services to rezone the property at 3 Linden Place from R-1 residential to B-2 business to allow an adult day care center.

Brandi’s Hope provides a day care program for adults with cognitive disabilities. The program, City Planner Frankie Legaux said, utilizes a domestic setting so that participants learn domestic self-help skills, as well as participate in social, recreation and leisure activities.

Brandi’s Hope also has locations in Pascagoula, Picayune and Tupelo.

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard voiced concerns about the number of participants that would be at the center.

Under B-2, a “day care center” allows for 16 or more participants. Dillard initially said he thought the board should go with the Natchez Planning Commission’s recommendation of rezoning the property R-2 residential, which would allow for a “large day care home” that could serve five to 15 clients.

The commission made that recommendation instead of B-2 so that, in the future, if Brandi’s Hope closed or relocated, another B-2 business could not locate there.

Legaux explained that the aldermen could rezone the property B-2 and restrict it to only include a day care center. That would mean, she said, that if Brandi’s Hope sold the property, anyone wanting to use the property for anything other than a day care center would have to receive city approval.

That stipulation satisfied Dillard’s concerns, as well as the concerns of a resident who lives near the property.

Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith asked if Brandi’s Hope had a maximum number of clients it could accept into the program.

Cowart said the Mississippi Department of Mental Health would set a maximum based on building space. He said the maximum would likely be 25.

Cowart said he has had several requests from parents through the years to open a Brandi’s Hope in Natchez.

• Ward 4 Alderman Tony Fields asked Community Development Director James Johnston why Chartre Consulting was seeking to build more housing on the Forks of the Road site. The proposed location of seven scattered-site housing units is near Chartre’s Old Bridge Place development.

Johnston said the company is “under duress” from the Mississippi Home Corporation to begin construction on homes for which the company received tax credits. He said the company is being penalized on a daily basis.

Mayor Butch Brown pointed out that the company owns the land and has a site plan approval to build 24 units.

“Right now we feel like we’ve negotiated a good package for a piece of property that’s zoned (to allow Chartre to build the units), and that they could do with just about whatever they want with,” he said.

• The board voted to file property tax liens for the following nuisance properties to recoup costs incurred by Natchez Public Works to clean up the properties:

• 728 Martin Luther King Jr. St., $1,100

• 815 Martin Luther King Jr. St., $860

• 26 Minor St., $485

• 0 Frazier St., $350

• 14 Irving Lane, $450

• 16 Irving Lane, $450

• 1139 Martin Luther King Jr. St., $700

• 9 Beaumont St., $525

• 8 Grant St., $290

• 40 E. Oak St., $800

• 24 Purnell St., $800

• 66 E. Oak St., $350

• 165 Fletcher St., $350

• 307 Johnson St., $700

• 108 Jackson St., $350

• 26 Zoa St., $450