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Natchez building inspector to retire

NATCHEZ — City Building Inspector Paul Dawes is set to retire June 30 — the fourth departure of a city department head in seven months.

Dawes, 62, has worked for the City of Natchez’s inspection department for 13 years. His responsibilities include the issuance of licenses for contractors and the issuance of building permits for new construction and remodeling of commercial and residential projects.

More recently, Dawes has served as interim city planner since Mayor Jake Middleton and the Natchez Board of Alderman decided to layoff former City Planner John “Rusty” Lewis in October.

Dawes, with assistance from secretary Kristie Martin, prepares staff reports for both the Natchez Preservation Commission and the Natchez Planning Commission, and reviews applications submitted to both boards.

Natchez Planning Commission Vice-Chairman Ed Godfrey said Dawes’ departure could temporarily cease operations in the planning department.

“This puts the city in a precarious situation,” Godfrey said. “If the city doesn’t hire a city planner by June 30, anyone who wants to do any kind of building project that has to be approved by planning won’t be able to do anything.”

City Engineer David Gardner said the planning and inspection departments are critical to city operations. Both departments enforce the city’s building codes and ordinances, which prevents inferior construction.

“(The departments) represent the first impression with any new business or development that wants to come into the city,” Gardner said. “It’s very, very important that we have somebody in place for potential business and new developers to come into the city.

“It’s really important we move fast and get somebody in before Paul retires, so Paul has a chance to bring the new person up to speed on our policies. We hate to see him leave.”

Dawes and his wife returned to Natchez in 1996 after their parents fell ill, and Dawes worked for the inspection department for two years before being named city building inspector.

Dawes, an International Code Council-certified building inspector, said there will not be much time for relaxation post-retirement. He plans to start his own business, PLD Inspection Service, and work with the state of Louisiana to perform third-party inspections.

“I still have a lot of work to do,” Dawes said. “I’ll miss working with everyone here at the city, but I’m sure I’ll see them as the years wear on.”

Dawes oversees a department of six employees. Dawes said he is not aware the city’s plans to hire his replacement.

Middleton said he will discuss his plans to hire Dawes’ replacement in the coming days. Middleton said in a previous report the city hoped to hire a city planner by June 1.

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