Natchez to combine water, engineering

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 9, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; David Gardner will direct both the City Engineer’s Office and Natchez Waterworks, and the departments will be consolidated in the next 30 days, with no layoffs expected.

Aldermen approved the change after an executive session held at the end of the board’s April 26 meeting. A copy of that meeting’s minutes will not be available until next week.

But city officials confirmed Monday that employees of both departments &045; almost 50 people in all &045; will be consolidated under Waterworks, with Gardner heading the entire operation.

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Alderman Rickey Gray said having Gardner head both departments will mean the city doesn’t have to train a new city engineer from scratch at a time when that department is overseeing millions of dollars worth of projects.

&uot;And there are several places where the city engineer is over both departments,&uot; Gray said.

Like Gray, Alderman Bob Pollard &045; who, with aldermen David Massey and Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West, served on a committee researching the change &045; said money is also a factor.

&uot;Consolidating the two departments will be a cost savings to the city,&uot; Pollard said.

&uot;With someone new coming in (to the city engineer’s position), they would have to see where we are in terms of these projects, then start developing a budget for next year,&uot; Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said.

In addition, there would be more of a chance of turnover in the Engineering Department under new management, she said.

Both departments are actively working on several major projects, from the renovation of the federal courthouse building to north Natchez drainage improvements to a city-wide water meter changeout.

But Gardner said he’s ready to tackle the job &045; or, in this case, jobs &045; with the help of what he said is a very capable staff.

&uot;I’m excited to have this opportunity, and I’m up for the challenge,&uot; he said. &uot;This is an example of government trying to run more efficiently.&uot;

Gardner said city officials had discussed the change for quite a while before taking the vote.

But the latest talks started after Gardner announced he would quit the city engineer’s job to head Waterworks after James Thorpe, superintendent since 1998, retired. Thorpe’s last day on the job was Friday.

Gardner has served as city engineer since January 1993.