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Aldermen reject bids for downtown depot renovations

Andrew Miller of Starkville walks on the bluff past the former railroad depot which the City  of Natchez is hoping to renovate before the tercentennial celebration in 2016. At the moment, renovation plans are at a standstill as the city turned down five base bids. Once renovations are complete, the city hopes to work in conjunction with Alcorn State University to offer consulting services. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Andrew Miller of Starkville walks on the bluff past the former railroad depot which the City of Natchez is hoping to renovate before the tercentennial celebration in 2016. At the moment, renovation plans are at a standstill as the city turned down five base bids. Once renovations are complete, the city hopes to work in conjunction with Alcorn State University to offer consulting services. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Plans for the renovation of the downtown railroad depot are at a standstill.

The Natchez Board of Alderman rejected five base bids for renovation projects Tuesday, citing all bids were too high.

The lowest bid was $1.19 million and the highest  $1.78 million.

“We had no other option but to reject (the bids),” said James Johnston, Natchez community development director.

Johnston, along with Mayor Butch Brown and consulting engineer Sharpie Smith of Smith Seckman Reid, Inc., are currently working to draft a new bid to advertise within the next six weeks.

In an effort to cut costs, Smith said the bid will be redrafted to include three phases, which are to be determined.

Specifically, Johnston said the depot needs extensive roofing renovations, new electrical installations, updated plumbing and general interior and exterior updates.

Once a bid is accepted, Smith estimated the project would take 240 days to complete — hopefully in time for the city’s tricentennial.

“This all has to be approved by the Mississippi Department of Transportation,” Smith said. “Hopefully, with the change in how we propose the project, we will have a bid that we can award.”

The city-owned railroad depot, located on North Broad Street, has housed several businesses in the past, Mayor Brown said. Once renovations are completed, Brown said the city is looking to use the depot in conjunction with Alcorn State University to offer consulting services.

“Past restaurants and merchants that been in the depot have done well, and we’re just looking to get someone else in that building who will use it well,” Brown said. “We just need to change the scope of the bid, first.”