Aldermen take up time talking streets

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 14, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Discussion of street improvements &045; and how to pay for them &045; took up much of the Natchez Board of Aldermen’s Tuesday meeting.

Aldermen voted to ask the Waterworks Board to fund overlaying of a portion of West Stiers Lane impacted the most by recent waterworks projects.

According to city officials, the Waterworks Board agreed to pay for 40 percent of overlaying West Stiers Lane.

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In Tuesday’s meeting, Alderman Ricky Gray made a motion to direct City Clerk Donnie Holloway to negotiate to borrow from the waterworks enough funds to cover the other 60 percent.

It’s estimated the entire project would cost $79,800. &uot;The idea is that instead of patching in spots, let’s go ahead and do the whole thing,&uot; Gray said.

However, some aldermen said it would be unfair to put almost $80,000 into overlaying one street when other streets throughout the city also need improvements.

Alderman and Mayor Pro Tem David Massey also said the request had not been brought before the board’s Street Committee, which he chairs, prior to Tuesday’s meeting. &uot;Let’s get good numbers (on the cost of such improvements) and look at all areas,&uot; Massey said. When the city’s budget is revised in the spring, city officials can discuss allocating money for street projects, Massey said.

Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said he agrees West Stiers Lane was in need for improvements. &uot;But there’s a big difference in having to go to the waterworks and borrow the money and having the money available,&uot; Smith said.

Smith said he wouldn’t favor issuing bonds for such a project. &uot;I’m opposed to a bond issue that you’d be paying back over 20 years and the overlay only lasts 10 to 15 years,&uot; he said.

And the city will have other bond issues to repay in the future.

Smith noted that the city has already committed to making improvements to the drainage system that serves north Natchez and the downtown area. Those efforts have included lobbying the area’s Congressional delegation.

The city would have to put up a 20 percent match to help fund the $7.5 million project. &uot;That would have to come from a bond issue&uot; that would have to be paid back, Smith said.

Gray’s motion failed on a 3-3 vote, with Smith casting the deciding &uot;no&uot; vote.

But another motion passed to ask the Waterworks Board to expend the equivalent of its 40 percent &045; about $31,920, according to Tuesday’s estimates &045; to pave the section of West Stiers Lane that’s in the worst condition.

&uot;Something done would be better than doing nothing at all,&uot; Arceneaux said.

Also during the discussion, Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West asked what it would take to get West Stiers Lane named part of the Federal Aid Urban program.

Federal Aid Urban routes are arterial roads the city gets federal money to repair.

However, City Engineer David Gardner said once a road is named an FAU route, it must meet federal construction guidelines. That means the street must be wide enough for truck traffic.

And widen the road enough, the city would have to spend a large amount of money to buy rights-of-way, taking whole neighborhoods out in the process.

On the subject of FAU streets, Gardner said Tuesday he would have to hand-deliver an application to the state Department of Transportation today to get FAU funds for an upcoming Orleans Street improvement project.

&uot;Orleans is the worst street we have that’s on FAU,&uot; Gardner said.

That project, including overlaying of an adjacent section of Commerce Street and improving the Orlean/Homochitto Street intersection, would cost $150,000, with FAU funds covering 80 percent of the cost.

In other business, the board voted to accept erosion control work done on College Street and close out a contract with Edgin Construction on the project.

Aldermen also directed City Planner Robert Jackson to research what grants are available for Zoa Street drainage improvements.

&uot;If a funding match is required (for the grant), I move we go to the county and ask them to sign up with us&uot; to help fund the project,&uot; Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux said in making her motion.