Board seeks funds for repairs

Published 12:01 am Thursday, July 14, 2011

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Board of Aldermen is looking to get funding for a few projects, like repairing the building that contains the Cock of the Walk and the old tollbooth colonnades at the Natchez Visitor’s Reception Center.

“What I envision us doing is rehabilitating the (Cock of the Walk) building and perhaps adding a public bathroom,” City Engineer David Gardner said. “It would really serve us well for balloon races.

“We can budget (the bathroom) out of the capital improvements fund.”

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Gardner said the city would probably need to apply for $1 million or more in transportation enhancement funds to repair both the Cock of the Walk and the colonnade. Those funds would be allocated through the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

“When you apply for enhancement funds, (MDOT) doesn’t like to award anything less than $500,000,” he said. “The target is $700,000 to $1 (million) or $2 million. If we could apply for anything from $750,000 to $1 million, it would give us a competitive edge.”

The reason for that, Gardner said, is a lot of paperwork goes into supplying those funds, and those at MDOT feel it’s not worth filling it out just for $50,000.

Rehabilitating the colonnades should only take $100,000 to $150,000, he said.

“That’s the minimum you can put into the structure and replace a lot of wood to be exactly the way it was before,” Gardner said.

“It has a lot of rotten wood to replace. It would probably be cheaper to just tear it down and rebuild it, but because it’s considered a historic structure, you can’t do that.”

Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said the businesses in the Cock of the Walk building should be forewarned early so they can adjust as needed.

“I personally want to be very cognizant of when we’re going to do something so (the businesses) have time to keep working,” she said.

In addition to those projects, Alderman Dan Dillard said, the city should also start planning for the rehabilitation of Sherwood Drive — located right off of Seargent S. Prentiss Drive — because it’s badly in need of repair.

On the other hand, the county recently overlaid the street in addition to overlaying a number of other streets, including South Commerce and South Union.

“It certainly begs the question as to why (Sherwood) would need to be overlaid again,” Dillard said.

Gardner pointed out that the street doesn’t have a good base. Therefore, to fully repair it, it would need to be entirely deconstructed.

Sherwood Drive qualifies for federal funding, Gardner said, so it’s a good place to start with more overlays.

The aldermen voted on whether the process for rehabilitating Sherwood Drive should begin now or after the colonnades and the Cock of the Walk are repaired.

Mayor Jake Middleton said he didn’t want the addition of a new project to take away from those at hand.

“I want us to work on the other two pieces of property first before we move onto Sherwood,” he said.

With the vote on the table at Tuesday morning’s aldermen meeting to begin planning for Sherwood’s rehabilitation, Arceneaux-Mathis and Alderman James “Rickey” Gray voted no, while Aldermen Bob Pollard, Tony Fields, Mark Fortenbery and Dillard voted yes.

Middleton broke the tie by voting yes.

“If (Sherwood) is the worst street in your opinion, I’m going to go with your opinion and vote ‘aye,’” Middleton said to Gardner.

Gardner said the Sherwood Drive project probably wouldn’t be finished until 2013 or 2014.

“We try to do a project every two years,” he said. “This year and next year, we’ll be working on (Cock of the Walk and the old tollbooth).”

Two years after that project is completed, he said, work on Sherwood Drive will begin.

“I don’t have an estimate (for Sherwood) yet,” Gardner said. “It’s probably going to be (approximately) $750,000.”