Natchez aldermen declare sinkhole an emergency

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 28, 2001

After an enormous 25-foot hole appeared in a busy city street last week, the City of Natchez declared the situation an emergency Tuesday and approved up to $50,000 to pay for the repairs.

The sinkhole in Highland Boulevard developed after drainage pipes near Spanish Bayou washed out leaving a cavity beneath the roadway, said Natchez Public Works Director Richard Burke.

He said as workers began digging up the area, they realized it was much worse than it first appeared. The repairs were made with the help of several subcontractors and with some assistance from the Adams County Road Department.

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In other action at Tuesday’s meeting, the board:

— Officially accepted results of an independent audit for Fiscal Year 2000 made by Gillon and Company.

— Set a public hearing for urban renewal bonds for 6 p.m. July 24. The bonds are part of the ongoing project to refurbish the old Memorial Hall building on Pearl Street for use as a federal courthouse.

— Recognized Natchez’s Miss Hospitality, Melanie Foster, as part of the PROUD (People Representing Our Unique Diversities) program. Foster is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Glen Foster.

— Agreed to hold a brief meeting at 10 a.m. July 3 for the sole purpose of approving the monthly financial docket.

— Heard from police chief Willie Huff about several properties in town where neighbors have complained about overgrown lawns or &uot;weed lots.&uot; Huff said with the recent rain, he expects the problems to get more difficult and has assigned an officer who was recently injured to help manage this until the officer is fully recovered.

The biggest problem, Huff said, is in dealing with property owned by people who live out of town.

&uot;With people out of state we can’t write them a citation and run up to Los Angeles and give it to them,&uot; Huff said, adding that because of the notification required, it’s often four to six weeks before the problems can be resolved.

— Heard from the City Inspection Department and approved its recommendation to proceed with plans to board up two abandoned properties: 923 N. Union St. and the old Harlem Hotel on Martin Luther King Street. In addition, the board approved to proceed with the demolition of 15 Old Browns Lane.

— Heard a request from Alderman James &uot;Ricky&uot; Gray to begin looking into extending the bluff stabilization project to cover the Marblestone Road.

— Received an update from Municipal Judge John C. Tipton which included news that the city received $52,836 in net receipts last month. Tipton also reported that a surplus of funds disbursed to the city last year by the Adams County Circuit Clerk’s office was grossly over estimated. &uot;At that time, the clerk could not find some of those cases,&uot; Tipton said. &uot;The great majority we found were not city cases (after all).&uot; He said initially the county sent about $4,200 to the city it believed to be back payments owed to the city. Tipton said after further review the actual amount owed to the city was only $1,650. The other money, which had been set aside in a separate account, has been refunded.

Tipton also said the city will soon begin assessing a $50 court cost on all auto insurance cases it handles to help fund the extra work required. Tipton said doing so is a trend that many other state municipalities are following. Tipton also announced he was recently elected as president of the state Municipal Judges Association.

— Heard a report from Alderman Jake Middleton which updated the progress of several city recreation projects.

— Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West asked if city work crews could be utilized to occasionally help clean up the Watkins Street Cemetery. City Attorney Walter Brown said that previously that would have been prohibited since the cemetery is privately owned. However a recent opinion from the Attorney General’s office allows some exceptions in the case of cemeteries, Brown said. Chief Huff and the Rev. James Stokes will explore the possibilities of this.

— Approved final rights-of-way certification to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for upcoming work on the Roth Hill Road project.

— Agreed to allow the City Clerk’s office to sell some personal property items including some unused cellular telephones and computer parts.

— Heard from Carolyn Smith with the Minorville Jubilee Committee. Smith thanked the city for its support and invited everyone to attend the event on July 28.

— Heard from Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith who is concerned with the increasing amount of litter he’s seen around the city. Smith asked for help from all residents in ending the problem. Alderman West suggested reactivating the Keep Natchez Beautiful Committee.

— Reappointed Richard Burke to the Board of Water Commissioners.