Smith: Area delegation pledges help

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 31, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; The area’s senators and congressman have pledged their willingness to work with local officials on initiatives that would help Natchez’s economy.

That’s according to Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith, who met last week with members of the area’s congressional delegation during his trip to a U.S. Conference of Mayor mid-winter meeting.

Smith gave a report of those talks at Tuesday night’s Natchez Board of Aldermen meeting.

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Specifically, Smith said he talked with the delegation regarding the possible expansion of the renewal community that includes three northernmost census tracts in Adams County.

A federal RC designation carries with it tax credits for certain businesses starting or expanding in such areas, as long as the employees they’re getting credit for also live in the RC.

However, the RC that includes Adams County does not include the areas in which industries would be most likely to locate, Smith said. Those include the port, the former International Paper mill site, U.S. 84 and the Beltline Highway.

The delegation agreed it would be best to include such areas &uot;and said they’re willing to look into it,&uot; Smith said.

If the RC cannot be expanded, Smith asked the delegation to look into getting an empowerment zone for Adams County, which would carry with it some tax credits, although fewer than an RC.

Since Concordia Parish has its own RC, Smith also requested that senators and congressmen look into sponsoring legislation that would allow a company in one zone to get credits for employees living in another zone.

That’s important because people who live in Concordia Parish work in Adams County, and vice versa, Smith said.

&uot;But it would require legislation to change,&uot; he said.

Smith said he also reminded the delegation of the need for federal funding to help acquire the IP site for use an industrial park location and was assured of their support.

Earlier in the meeting, aldermen pledged to seek federal and state funding to address inadequate housing, street paving and the installation of road guardrails in the West Stiers Lane area.

The city cannot get Federal Aid Urban funds to help pave the street because the federal government would require the road be widened. Doing that would eliminate properties on both sides of the street, city officials explained.

They noted that the Waterworks Board has pledged almost $32,000 to pave the worst part of the street.

&uot;I’ve been a resident (of West Stiers Lane) for 30 years, and that street has only been resurfaced once,&uot; said Ella Knight, who addressed the board. &uot;I want to see the entire street done.&uot;

Eva Dunkley, who has grandchildren living in the West Stiers Lane area, said she would also like to see the city clean up trash that is dumped along the street.

Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux said she would like to request that county officials pitch in to help with all of the above problems.

In addition, she noted that representatives of the Ford Foundation in New York have said they are working on a comprehensive plan to address issues such as substandard housing in the West Stiers Lane area.

She asked that City Planner Bob Jackson look into the status of that study.

In addition, Alderman and Police Committee Chairman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West read a letter from Morgantown Elementary Principal Fred Marsalis praising the assistance given by Natchez police following a bus accident earlier this month.

Smith said similar praise was passed along to him by Superintendent Anthony Lee Morris.

In other business, the board:

4Heard an annual report from Municipal Judge John Tipton, who said the court handled 342 fewer misdemeanor cases and 1,732 fewer traffic citations last year than in 2002.

Partly as a result of that decrease, money collected by the court fell from $1.02 million in 2002 to $834,000 last year. &uot;But the decrease in collections wasn’t as bad as we had thought,&uot; Tipton said.

Of 152 people assigned to the work program to pay off fines, 99 successfully completed the program.

In addition, Tipton reported that outstanding bench warrants totaled $581,000 as of Dec. 31 &045; but that that includes all outstanding warrants in the system.

4Approved a contract with the state Department of Transportation for mowing along major thoroughfares at a cost of $56,940 for eight mowings.

4Give Transit Authority Director Sabrina Bartley permission to apply for transit funds from MDOT for 2005.

4Approved a $128,000 contract with Environment Masters for asbestos abatement for a building at the Forks of the Road site, the old Natchez Pecan Factory and a house on Minor Street.

4Approved an agreement with Winstead Photography for the city to use photos the company tok of the Natchez Convention Center.

4Expand a contract with Buttross Interactive to install pay telephones at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center. The company currently supplies pay phones for the convention center.

In addition, City Attorney Walter Brown noted that an agreement with Stone River Electric to upgrade lighting throughout the city’s properties will be executed this week.