Drainage plans nearly done

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 2, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Engineering plans for reworking the North Natchez drainage system are near completion, David Gardner told Natchez aldermen Tuesday.

That may be good news, but Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux Mathis has concerns about starting the project without all the funding in place.

&8220;We&8217;re about 75 to 80 percent ready with the drawings and hope to advertise for bids in July or August,&8221; said Gardner, city engineer and superintendent of Natchez Water Works.

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With $2 million from the Mississippi Department of Transportation already in the bank to be used as matching money, the work can go forward, Gardner said.

City officials have anticipated $6 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers but have not received those funds. Congress has approved the project, however.

Arceneaux reminded the board that the impetus for repairing the massive drainage structures came from flooding of homes on Buckner, Oak, Maple and Wall in 2000.

&8220;People were stepping off their porches into water,&8221; she said.

The project will begin with Canal Street, however, because the brick canal under the street must be repaired before the drainage above it to the north.

&8220;I just don&8217;t want to see us use all our money to fix Canal Street and then not have any money for the streets where water was going into people&8217;s houses,&8221; she said.

Gardner said he is confident the rest of the money will be forthcoming and the entire project will be completed.

Gardner also sought and received approval to advertise for bids two other projects that will be funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Together the projects total about $1.5 million.

The larger project will be a stabilizing of an area of St. Catherine Creek where a sewer line is endangered; the second project involves three sites, all involving restoration of sewer lines.

&8220;Matching money will come from Water Works,&8221; Gardner said. He is applying for a Mississippi Emergency Management Agency grant to help pay for the match.

The projects will be advertised for bids in May and awarded in June.

City attorney Walter Brown updated the board on three construction projects.

First, the architect for the federal courthouse under construction at Memorial Hall said completion date is in January 2007.

Next, Brown recommended an additional extension to May 9, the date of the next aldermen meeting, for developers of a condominium project on the bluff.

&8220;We have extended this several times, and they have requested another for environmental and geotechnical studies,&8221; Brown said.

Those studies have been completed, and the developers are awaiting receipt of reports.

Third, Brown said occupants of the two buildings on the site where a convention center hotel will be built have been notified to be out of the buildings by May 31.

Demolition will begin soon after that date so that developer Tom Bauer can begin the hotel project on the site.

&8220;His option extends to December 31,&8221; Brown said of developer Tom Bauer of New Orleans, who plans to build the hotel across Canal Street from the Natchez Convention Center.

&8220;But he expects to begin construction about September or October of this year,&8221; Brown said.