Second try to fund trails project succeeds

Published 11:17 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2009

NATCHEZ — It was the second try, but Tuesday night the Natchez Board of Aldermen voted to establish a memorandum to accept $275,000 from the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

The money was appropriated for the Natchez Trails Project, but at the Feb. 17 aldermen meeting the board voted 4-2 against the request.

After City Attorney Everett Sanders said he had reviewed the appropriation and everything was in order, Alderman Ernest “Tony” Fields — who voted against the measure the first time it came up — made the motion to accept the funds.

Email newsletter signup

“I want everybody to know that there is no way I am going to turn down money that anyone wants to give us if it is going to better the City of Natchez,” Fields said. “We are just trying to have better practices so we won’t run into a $1.3 million hiccup again.”

The $1.3 million hiccup Fields referred to was a 2008 street project that the city entered into after being told funds had been appropriated to them. However, the city failed to apply for the funds and was left scrambling to find funding for the project after the appropriation was withdrawn.

Aldermen Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, who also voted against the appropriation initially, agreed with Fields.

“We are just saying we want to be more knowledgeable about what we are doing,” she said.

The council also voted against rezoning a tract of land near the Glenwood subdivision from a residential zone to a special use district, which would have allowed it to be developed for business.

With the exception of the Glenwood subdivision, all of the property surrounding the 3.6-acre lot was already zoned as special use districts, City Planner Rusty Lewis said.

The planning office had determined that the zoning of the land parcel in question as residential was a mistake, Lewis said.

Several Glenwood residents spoke against the rezoning, stating that it would create unsafe traffic conditions for them and exacerbate already increasing noise problems they did not anticipate when they moved into the neighborhood decades ago.

“We are concerned it is going to create a world of traffic problems,” said Janice Byrne, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1967. “We are looking down the line and what might happen, and we are thinking what it would look like to have looming over our neighborhood a building as large as Natchez Regional (Hospital).”

Alderman Bob Pollard, who represents the area, recommended the board vote against the rezoning.

“I am not against a new development in Natchez,” he said. “My only concern is for the safety of these people entering and exiting these neighborhoods that they have lived in for years.”

In other news:

4Mayor Jake Middleton read a proclamation declaring March 15-21 as Watkins Street Cemetery Week.

The proclamation was made in recognition of work done by Thelma White and the Worthy Women of Watkins Street Cemetery Association.

The Watkins Street Cemetery was originally purchased in 1909 to provide a burial place for the black citizens of Adams County, and it contains the remains of two-thirds of the victims of the infamous Rhythm Night Club fire.

“I call it the ‘other city cemetery,’” White said.

Through the years, the cemetery fell into serious neglect, and in 2005 White organized the Worthy Women of Watkins Street to care for the cemetery.

“Their work has transformed an unrecognizable jungle of weeds and trees into an accessible area,” Middleton said.

4The board voted to have Middleton arrange meetings with former mayors to discuss how to get stimulus money for Natchez.

Arceneaux-Mathis made the motion to arrange the meetings.

“We are in a critical situation with this stimulus money,” she said. “All of these mayors have made their own contacts (with legislative officials), and I think it would behoove us as a board to meet with them. This money is going to be very competitive.”