Public Works expansion under construction

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, May 13, 2015

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Public Works Department, currently, is a work in progress.

Tuesday, the Natchez Board of Aldermen heard a tentative plan for the department’s expansion.

The expansion began after the city ended its inter-local agreement with Natchez Water Works and decided not to hire a replacement city engineer after David Gardner retired from the position.

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In the new public works plan, Natchez Mayor Butch Brown proposed the city hire three new positions within the department: a public works clerk, engineering technician and another position to manage traffic control and street projects.

The engineering technician, Brown said, would handle drafting maps for any proposed infrastructure update to the city.

“They would handle all ‘bones’ of public works,” Brown said. “Maps, deeds, drawings — all of that.”

Whoever is hired to oversee traffic control and street projects, Brown said, would act as an assistant to Natchez Public Works Supervisor Justin Dollar.

“Traffic and streets — those are two very active areas of public works,” Brown said. “The (public works assistant) would help Justin in those two areas.”

With the expanded department lacking an on-staff engineer, Brown said the city would allocate funds in its yearly budget for outside consultation from local engineering firms, like Jordan Kaiser & Sessions LLC.

Right now, Brown said the city is expecting to allocate $30,000 a year for outside consultation costs.

Even with outside consultation costs, Brown said the city would still be spending less money than it was previously through the inter-local agreement, though he did not provide specifics.

Alderman Tony Fields and alderwoman Sarah Carter Smith expressed hesitation with the proposed plan.

“I think we’re off to a great start,” Fields said. “But we need to have more discussion on this.”

With the addition of three positions within public works, Smith said the city needs to crunch more numbers to make sure the expansion is still saving the city money.

“To my understanding, we’re still behind on paying engineering services,” Smith said.

With these questions lingering, the board voted to hold a work session Tuesday at the city council chambers, 115 S. Pearl St., to further discuss an expanded public works department.

As of Tuesday, there was no set time for the meeting.