City gives St. Catherine Street Trails project to new contractor

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, July 15, 2015

NATCHEZ — The second phase of the St. Catherine Street Trails project passed hands Tuesday from Live Oak Construction to Simmons Erosion Control.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen hit cancel on Live Oak’s bid during its regular meeting, citing that Live Oak had been “noncommittal” in signing paperwork for the project.

Dick Thompson, owner of Live Oak, said that was his intention.

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“That’s what I wanted — to get out (of the contract)” said Thompson, who originally gave a low bid of $757,321.48 for the project. “We’ve been in a lot of heated discussions (with the city) in the last few weeks.”

Live Oak Construction, which bids for projects under Thompson Tree and Spraying Service, is currently administering final restorations to the Toll Plaza Colonnades on Canal Street.

Thompson said the city is “up to its ears in payments,” and he didn’t want to get involved in another city project until the first — the colonnade restoration — was resolved.

“We would have been glad to do the St. Catherine Street Trails project,” Thompson said. “But first, we need to get paid for the colonnades.”

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown previously said the city plans to pay Thompson only for the scope of work he signed up for, and nothing more.

“Should the city decide that it wants to reject Thompson’s bid, that can certainly happen, and it can happen overnight,” Brown said before the board awarded the bid to Simmons Erosion Control, a company based in the town of Lake. “It’s not going to be a problem.”

Simmons bid the project at $723,029.25.

Community Development Director James Johnston said Simmons’ bid didn’t include an alternate for installing lights on Broadway Street.

Since Thompson’s bid included the alternate, Johnston said Simmons’ bid was the second lowest bid the board received for the project.

Johnston said Simmons’ bid includes some landscaping on North Broadway Street, replacing sidewalks along St. Catherine Street and installing 32 informational panels along St. Catherine Street.

Before Simmons can begin work on the second phase of the project, Johnston said they must first complete required paperwork with the Mississippi Department of Transportation — something Thompson failed to do.

During the board’s regular meeting, Brown also proposed making the former Titan Tire Factory, located at 89 Kelly Ave., a surplus property.

By making the factory, which has been closed for more than a decade, a surplus property, Brown said the city could then benefit by selling it.

“There is nothing out there we want,” Brown said. “So I would love to have that property as surplus.”

The factory was built in 1939 as part of a “balancing agriculture with industry” program, Brown said.

Since it became abandoned, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has monitored the property.

In other news:

-Brown discussed the possibility of a well-known, international hotel establishing a branch in Natchez.

Currently, Brown said he couldn’t disclose the name of the hotel, but he asked for the board’s “support” for the hotel.

“It’ll have 100 rooms and is a name-brand hotel,” Brown said. “They want our expression of support.”

Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Carter Smith was hesitant about giving support, and said she needed more information.

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard said the hotel would encourage economic development and generate jobs for Natchez.

“I’m all in favor,” Dillard said. “Maybe a formal vote will come at a later time, but this is just encouraging economic development in Natchez.”

-Natchez Waterworks Superintendent Tony Moon said the Bridge of Sighs project, slated for completion July 31, may run over budget by $40,000.

Moon said Dozer LLC — the construction company spearheading the project — had to modify the project’s original plans because of an interference involving anchors with the bluff’s stabilization.

To account for those anchors, Moon said Dozer had to raise the north side of the bridge by a foot and a half to stay in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations.

“The major items on the project should be done by the end of the week,” Moon said.

Johnston said the city would have to cover the extra costs, but he currently doesn’t know which account those funds would come from.

-The city received preliminary approval for grant money through the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks for the construction of new restrooms and a concession stand at Duncan Park.

Johnston said the city is hoping to hear back from the department within 90 days.

The project would cost approximately $450,000, including matching funds.

Once a bid is awarded for the project, Johnston said an architect would develop a plan and specifications for the project.

-Dillard asked for an update on the 2013-2014 city audit, which has been late on submission since July 1.

Wendy McClain, who was recently hired as the city’s assistant clerk, said the audit should be ready by Aug. 15.

“Things are progressing nicely now,” McClain said. “We’ve identified most of the balances that the auditor had questioned.”

Brown requested that the city clerk office always attend the board’s finance committee meetings so they can all “stay in the loop.”

-The board approved appointing Maggie Fromm and Dennis Switzer to the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Promotion Commission Board.

Fromm and Switzer will replace Kevin Preston and Robert McNeely.

CVB Director Kevin Kirby said Preston and McNeely were doing a good job, but weren’t able to attend meetings due to other work-related obligations.

-Clark Feiser, director of the Natchez Retiree Partnership, notified the board that Auburn Museum and Historic Home, located at 400 Duncan Ave., has extensive water damage.

“It was in danger in 2013,” Feiser said. “Now it’s in even more.”

Brown said he would look into ways to prevent the historic house from suffering further damage.

-The city approved a $14,000 purchase for playground equipment at Jack Waite Park.

Funds will be provided by a grant from My Brother’s Keeper, a nonprofit organization designed to enhance the health and wellbeing of minorities.