Natchez aldermen appoint Stewart as city’s new fire chief

Published 2:14 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2008

NATCHEZ — After operating for more than five months with no permanent chief, the Natchez Fire Department is now under the direction of its newest leader — Oliver Stewart.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Natchez Board of Aldermen, Stewart was unanimously voted in as chief.

Stewart has been serving as interim chief since April, when former Chief Paul Johnson retired.

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Aldermen Bob Pollard, the board’s chairman of the fire committee, said Stewart’s 20-plus years of experience on the job made him an ideal candidate for the posistion.

“He’s well qualified and well respected,” Pollard said. “(The board) felt like he was the best choice for the job.”

Stewart said he was pleased with the appointment.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m just going to take it one day at a time.”

Stewart said his first order of business as chief will be to increase training on the force.

In other news, the board also approved a $16,000 expenditure that would allow for the repair of tennis courts at Duncan Park.

Natchez Recreation Director Ralph Tedder said the money would be used for the resurfacing of four courts that are currently in need of work.

“If we don’t address this, the courts will eventually become unusable,’’ Tedder said.

The resurfacing work will address cracking in the courts that come from movement in the slab as a result of changes in the weather, Tedder said.

“It’s getting to be in pretty poor shape,” he said. “It has to be fixed.”

The money for the repairs will come from the city’s public property account.

Tedder said once the bidding is over he hopes to have the project completed by December.

And that December deadline is critical.

Tedder said if the project is completed by December the city will be eligible for a U.S. Tennis Association grant valued at $2,500.

The grant money would then go back into the city’s account, Tedder said.

City Engineer David Gardner also took time at Tuesday’s meeting to bring the board up to speed on a major sewer project that began in early March.

Gardner said the sewer project at the new Corrections Cooperation of America prison is complete, with the exception of a few minor details.

And not only is the project all but finished, it was done on time.

The project was scheduled for completion on Oct. 1, and that’s when it was completed, Gardner said.

Gardner said the project is only in need of an emergency generator that hasn’t arrived yet and some tests to be deemed completely finished.

The new $4.2 million system is currently in use.