City to inventory all streets

Published 12:11 am Friday, August 3, 2012

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez will soon have two employees inventorying the condition of the 106 miles of city streets in the first steps to getting a permanent street maintenance program in place.

City Engineer David Gardner said a Natchez Public Works employee and an engineering department employee will be spending approximately a month inventorying streets starting in a few weeks.

The goal, Gardner said, is to get current information about the conditions of city streets to input into a street inventory tool created by the engineering department.

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At a May meeting, Gardner showed the aldermen the street inventory tool the engineering department has been working on to prioritize maintenance for city streets. Gardner said the rank of the streets on the spreadsheet can be adjusted based on formulas for different variables, including road condition, traffic, cost and other things.

Gardner said the program will rank the streets according to the importance of each variable input into the formulas.

The inventory, Gardner said, is the first step in getting a permanent street maintenance plan in place for the city.

Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith said she called to see what information the city had on streets and discovered the last street inventory was done in the late 1990s.

That is something Ward 4 Alderman Tony Fields, head of the street committee, said indicates that the inventory is long overdue.

“If a street inventory hasn’t been done since I was in high school, you know that’s bad,” Fields said.

Fields said he looks forward to the inventory being completed so the aldermen can sit down and figure out what streets are high priorities and have a plan that includes all city streets.

“It’s going to be huge in making decisions about actually fixing and overlaying streets,” Fields said. “It’s going to give us all a good idea of what streets are in pretty good shape and what streets are in terrible shape and let us make them priorities.”

Smith has been working with Gardner on the logistics of getting the inventory done before the aldermen adopt a budget for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The next step, Smith said, is figuring out how the city will fund the street maintenance program.

“Once the inventory is complete, how we’re going to fund (a street maintenance program) is a challenge the board is going to have to look at,” Smith said.

Gardner said he needs to get input from the aldermen once the inventory is complete on which variables are most important to them when ranking streets.

Smith said she has looked at how other cities have implemented street maintenance programs. She said a city in Texas formed a citizen committee to provide community input on the assessment and selection of the streets, an option she said the city could consider.

Fields said he believes having a street maintenance program, especially a list ranking the needs of streets, will allow the aldermen to keep the residents of the aldermen’s respective wards better informed about where their streets ranks and when they might be fixed.

“As citizens we all appreciate when we put our tax dollars into something we can see being done,” Fields said. “When you hear about government spending, you hear about spending that people cannot see.”

Fields said residents can see their tax dollars at work right in front of them when residents’ streets are being repaired.

“We’re responsible for our streets, and I think this inventory and program will help us put our best foot forward in continuing to make our town look better.”