Natchez aldermen approve new city planner

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, January 10, 2007

After months of searching, Natchez’ new city planner was made official at Tuesday’s aldermen meeting.

The board voted to approve a contract between the city and Dennis Story. Mayor Phillip West previously said Story’s salary would be $48,000 a year, $3,000 more than the previous planner, Andrew Smith.

Story, from Alexandria, La., started working for the city in early November.

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He has worked as planning director for Alexandria and has most recently worked as a consultant on grants for various agencies.

Story filled the void left by Smith when West fired Smith in June. At the time, West said he had received complaints from Smith’s co-workers and the public alike.

Story has previously said he was interested in Natchez because of its beauty and history and has said he hopes to help combine the city’s history with new development.

Also at the meeting, attorney Walter Brown presented the board with a protocol between the city and those developing the future convention center hotel.

“(The developers) have asked to set the date of January 31 to close,” Brown said.

The project will cost more than $11 million, Brown said.

The only modification in the agreement is that, because of expanding some rooms, the hotel will have 199 rooms instead of the original 200.

Also in the agreement, the hotel will set aside rooms for conventions booked a year in advance.

The board voted to move the Jan. 23 meeting to Jan. 31 to discuss closing the deal with the hotel developers.

In other business:

The mayor and board recognized the Trinity Episcopal School football team and staff for their recent championship win and presented them with certificates.

Natchez Police Chief Mike Mullins introduced five new police officers hired in the last few months.

City Grants Coordinator Brett Brinegar asked the aldermen to look over their ward to see if they have dumping sites that need to be cleaned.

She said she planned to apply for Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality grants, at least one concerning cleaning up and preventing dumping.

The board approved the advertising of bids for materials for new signs deemed necessary by a previous sign study. The materials will be paid for by grant money, City Engineer David Gardner said.

Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said she thought both the Natchez College area and parts of the westbound bridge could use better lighting.

Alderman James “Ricky” Gray said he thought the city should address a method of determining how and when a building should be deemed dilapidated.

Mayor Phillip West said he thought the board should address how to determine the worst cases and costs involved in the near future.

City Attorney Everett Sanders said the board was trying to reach an agreement with Lane Company, who plans to lease city land to build a riverfront development and casino under Roth Hill.

In the meantime, the company wanted access to the land to conduct studies. The board approved such accesses.

The board re-adopted two ordinances past last meeting — one regarding private driveways and streets and one regarding townhouses and zero lot line residences.

This was necessary, Sanders said, because the advertisement announcing the decision had been faulty.

No changes were made in either ordinance, he said.

The board approved Pro-Life Natchez-Adams County’s request to set up a display Jan 14 through 28 on the bluff.