Details of contract with new city planner being finalized

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 23, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; The new city planner is almost official, Mayor Phillip West announced Thursday.

Dennis Story, from Alexandria, has been working as city planner since late November, but the last details of his contract with the city have just been ironed out.

West and Story have agreed on a $48,000 annual salary, rather than the $45,000 previous planners received, in a two-year contract, West said.

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&8220;We came to an agreement, but it has to be passed by the board (of aldermen),&8221; West said Thursday.

West said he would bring up the topic at the next meeting Jan. 9.

As for the past few weeks&8217; work, the salary will be prorated to pay Story for his time and effort, West said.

One of the biggest reasons Story chose to contract with the city rather than be directly employed was because of his family, West said.

Storey commutes daily to and from Alexandria because two of his three children attend school and his wife works there.

&8220;I can understand he didn&8217;t want to pull his kids out of school in the middle of the school year,&8221; West said.

The situation is not unusual, West said, as several employees at the waterworks department and convention center are employed that way.

He said he and Story would look at the contract again in September before the start of the next school year and evaluate any changes that might be needed.

Story said he &8220;thought it would be best&8221; to be employed through a contract with the city.

&8220;The position came up in the middle of a school year,&8221; Story said.

The new city planner, born and raised in Jackson, said he drove through Natchez frequently when traveling from Alexandria to Jackson.

&8220;I became fond of Natchez,&8221; Story said. &8220;I felt like I knew it, so this was a great opportunity. Natchez is beautiful &8212; I love the place, I love the history.&8221;

Story said he looked forward to working in Natchez to help it grow.

&8220;The city&8217;s history coupled with new development &8212; to combine the two, it&8217;s a great challenge and opportunity.&8221;

The city planner office was vacant for roughly five months after former City Planner Andrew Smith was fired after West said he received complaints from Smith&8217;s coworkers and the public.

Story applied for the job in 2005, when Smith was hired. At the time, West said, Story received the second-highest number of aldermen votes for the job.

Story graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor&8217;s degree in communications and a master&8217;s in urban planning.

After working in Michigan for several years, he moved home to Jackson and served in a planning capacity there. He also served as the planning director for Alexandria from 1991 to 2002. Most recently, Story had formed his own consulting company, he said.