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Demand for grass cutting increases

NATCHEZ — More than 50 properties around town are in dire need of grass cutting, and one alderman seems to have lost hope the task will be done.

City Building Inspector Paul Dawes recently reported 55 properties were in need of grass and weed maintenance, and the Natchez Board of Aldermen approved a motion last week to rectify the situation.

Soon after the motion was approved, Alderman James “Ricky” Gray voiced his concerns.

“Too many times a motion has been passed unanimously and no action is taken,” he said.

Gray questioned when crews could begin cutting the properties Dawes listed. Public Works Supervisor Robbie Dollar said his crews began grass cutting for the summer approximately three weeks ago. The crews are split in two — one crew maintains an area that includes John A. Quitman Boulevard, Melrose-Montebello Parkway and the bluff, while the other crew maintains neighborhoods. Dollar said public works is currently behind schedule on its original routes, and will address the properties when the schedule allows.

“We’ll continue our routes and if we get caught up, we’ll send out crews when we can,” Dollar said.

“I know it’s no way possible for you to catch up on that grass,” Gray responded.

Repeated attempts to contact Dollar for further comment were unsuccessful.

The properties do not fall under privatized grass cutting services approved by the aldermen in December. The motion only approved maintenance for recreational sites.

Bids were awarded to Jeffrey Ross of Ferriday, who quoted $32,000 per year for Duncan Park and $10,800 per year for neighborhood parks. Bids for the city’s ball fields were awarded to Gasquet Clean Cuts of Natchez, which quoted $15,000 per year for its services.

The contractors began work March 1 and grass cutting occurs twice a week on average, Recreation Director Ralph Tedder said.

“It’s been a tremendous success,” Tedder said. “The parks have never been groomed nicer than they are now.”

Tedder said four people were laid off as a result of privatized grass cutting. Once insurance and unemployment costs and other expenses are paid by the city, Tedder estimates a savings of $40,000 to $60,000 this fiscal year. Tedder originally estimated privatized grass cutting would save the city more than $119,000.

“(The expenses) cut into our savings, but we are going to start seeing the true numbers in the next three or four months,” Tedder said.

Tedder said one of the four employees who was laid off returned to work this week.

“We moved a man from park maintenance to golf cart technician, and brought (the employee) back to his old position,” Tedder said.

In addition to grass and weed maintenance, Dawes also named six properties primed for demolition and five properties that require boarding up. Demolition properties include:

17, 17 1/2, 34 Garden St.

165 Fletcher St.

108 Jackson St.

126 Oakland Drive

Board up properties include:

1104 N. Union St.

6 Laird St.

205 Bluff St.

 25, 27 St. Catherine St.