City debates plans for road stimulus money

Published 12:07 am Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NATCHEZ — City officials aren’t exactly in agreement over how to spend the city’s infrastructure stimulus money.

Last week Mayor Jake Middleton and City Engineer David Gardner received word that the city is going to receive approximately $662,000 from the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

The city was given six months to identify infrastructure projects on which to use the money. The project then must be approved and bids must be applied for in order for the city to receive the money.

Email newsletter signup

Work will then be contracted out through MDOT.

If the six-month period expires and approval isn’t met, Natchez’s money will be distributed elsewhere in the state.

During the board of aldermen’s work session Monday, Gardner said that’s why it’s important to identify “shovel ready” projects that are in a close vicinity.

One of the requirements in using the money is that it has to be put into Federal Aid Urban streets.

Using that requirement, in addition to not wanting overlay crews to move equipment around the city, as it costs money, and looking at streets in need of repair, Gardner recommended the downtown central business district.

“(We’re) trying to cluster the streets together,” he said.

He said he would like to focus on the cross streets — Pearl, Commerce and Rankin streets.

Alderman Dan Dillard said he wants to see Melrose Avenue — which is in his ward — overlaid.

“There’s no way (downtown streets) can carry the same traffic as Melrose,” Dillard said. “My roads are terrible. Every ward has had money put into it except (Ward) 6.”

Gardner pointed out that Melrose is a concrete road and would need some milling work done before it could get a new coat of pavement.

He said he would be happy to see even a small portion of Melrose Avenue overlaid — the portion he considers to be the worst part.

“You can mill concrete between Ratcliff (Place) and Roselawn (Drive); that’s but a block,” Dillard said.

Gardner said it would be too expensive to get a milling machine, and MDOT would not provide one.

The board did not vote on the matter, as it was only a work session.

Middleton said he expects a vote to take place at 11 a.m. today during the board’s regular meeting.