Good dirt, bad dirt swap saves bucks

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 28, 2000

Natchez officials have found a way to use one major project to help another — and maybe save about $350,000 in the process.

Dirt being excavated from the Mississippi River bluffs as part of stabilization work will be hauled to the site of the new convention center downtown.

City Engineer David Gardner said the &uot;good dirt&uot; from the bluffs is needed to replace &uot;bad soil&uot; at the convention center site. The soil there now is full of organic matter that won’t compact and would likely make a building to settle once it’s erected on the site.

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&uot;We’ve got three generations of buildings on that block,&uot; Gardner said, adding that some buildings burned and others were torn down. &uot;All the debris and leftover material is still there. We’re getting it out and replacing it with more suitable dirt.&uot;

Replacing the dirt was never part of the city’s budget for the convention center project, but officials might have had to pay up to $350,000 to provide suitable soil for the building.

&uot;We did not anticipate having to replace all of that fill,&uot; Natchez Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown. &uot;What we’re doing is something in lieu of spending that money.&uot;

Leftover dirt from bluff stabilization has already benefited two other projects in Natchez. Dirt from the first phase went to the Natchez City Cemetery to create space for more burial plots, and dirt from the current second phase has filled in a bank stabilization project along the river. City officials hope the dirt, piled beside a rock dike, will become a riverside park.

Gardner said he is glad other city projects can benefit from the bluff work.

&uot;It’s fantastic,&uot; Gardner said. &uot;We were going to have 50,000 yards of dirt leftover from the dike project. What better way to use it? It’s an even shorter haul.&uot;

The convention center is scheduled to be built on a city block between Main and Franklin and Canal and Wall streets where city public works crews are now excavating.

Preliminary design plans for the center were approved by the Natchez Preservation Commission earlier this month. The center is part of a $12 million convention center complex which will include a renovated city auditorium and a community center. The community center will be located in the old Service Motor Co. building on Franklin Street. Crews are working already to renovate that building, whose first booking is the Natchez&160;Literary Celebration June 1.