Natchez aldermen discuss overgrown lots, tall grass

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 15, 2010

NATCHEZ — The grass is greener and taller on the other side for many Natchez residents.

City Planner Robert Nix presented the board of aldermen with a list of approximately 200 properties that have been legally cleared for maintenance action from the city. The properties in question are in need of grass cutting, Nix said.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said the board needs to take immediate action to begin getting the lots cut because the overgrown lots cause a “health, safety and welfare” concern for those living near the lots.

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“I don’t think we can wait on this,” she said.

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard said the grass problem is exacerbated this time of year so it is necessary to consider options outside of the city’s public work’s department to get the grass cut.

He said while the department has the resources to get the neglected lots cut, they don’t have the manpower to handle the additional project.

Instead, Dillard suggested using $12,000 in funds from the public works department to contract with local lawn care companies to cut the lots.

“I think we can divide them into small enough parcels that we can just contract them out and not have to go through the bidding process,” Dillard said.

Originally Dillard suggested splitting those funds evenly between all of the wards, but Mathis pointed out the majority of the lots were in Wards 1, 2 and 4.

“Of these seven pages of properties, an over abundance of them are in three wards made up of people who look like the three people who sit up here,” she said. “Something has to be done for the people who elect us to be up here.”

Dillard amended his suggestion to allow the board to decide which lots need to be addressed first.

The motion passed five votes to one, with Ward 3 Alderman Bob Pollard representing the dissenting vote.

Dillard recognized the $12,000 would likely not be able to address all of the properties but said it would give the city a start. Dillard also suggested the city look at contracting out either the grass maintenance on overgrown properties or on city properties, whichever one was more financially responsible, he said.

“We can use the information we get from doing this to put together a bid package over the winter and see what the numbers are,” he said.

The board also approved a special exception request from Geraldine Minor to place a mobile home on a lot on Grant Street that previously housed a mobile home.

Nix said the previous mobile home was removed from the property in November or December of 2007. As part of her request, Minor also presented a petition from approximately 30 neighbors in support of her application.

The board unanimously approved the special exception request.

The board also approved a change in the planning commission’s procedures to eliminate procedural conflicts in processing special exceptions.

Previously, the procedures allowed for the planning commission and the board of aldermen to hear special exception requests and established the board as the appellate organization.

In that setup, the board of aldermen could be hearing appeals of requests it had originally ruled on.

The new procedures sets the board as an appellate board only.

In other action:

4 Deanne Tanksley of The Gillon Group told the board the audit for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2009, showed no violations.

“It is easy to see the board has taken their responsibility very seriously,” Tanksley said. “Much improvement can be seen from year to year.”

4Harrison Knight addressed the board in regards to a damaged tire he believes was caused by a screw from city equipment that was left in the street on Oak Street.

On Aug. 23, Knight’s wife, Janice, reportedly hit the screw and the Knights had to pay approximately $400 to replace the tire.

Knight requested the city compensate him for the tire, and the city filed a claim with their insurance company.

Knight received a letter from the insurance company stating the claim had been denied.

Knight requested the city pursue the claim further.

“If you have an insurance company that doesn’t want to pay, you don’t need that insurance,” he said.

City Engineer David Gardner said the insurance company denied the claim because their was no proof the screw came from City of Natchez equipment. Gardner said multiple company’s, including the city, Natchez Waterworks, Atmos Engery and Entergy, have done work in the area.

Alderman James “Ricky” Gray said he believes the city should compensate Knight for the replacement tire or find the entity that is responsible.

“I know Mr. Knight and he is not going to just come up and say something,” Gray said. “Whose responsibility is it to take care of the citizens?”