Residents want answers for mud

Published 12:12 am Thursday, October 29, 2015

NATCHEZ — A few East Oak Street residents are looking for solutions to the muddy situation outside their houses.

A handful of residents appeared before the Natchez Board of Aldermen at its Tuesday meeting to voice concerns about mud sliding from a nearby affordable housing development construction site onto their properties.

The housing development company, Oxford-based Chartre Consulting, is building single-family houses on Oak and St. Catherine streets. The company also built the Old Bridge Place development at the corner of St. Catherine and Rembert streets.

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The mud problem, which residents say began months ago, was worsened by the recent heavy rainfall over the weekend.

Mud from the site slid down from the site into the backyard of resident Edna Robinson’s house.

“But the neighbors can’t even step off their back steps without sinking in the mud,” Robinson said Wednesday, standing in her backyard.

Resident Cordelia Wells, whose parents live next to Robinson on East Oak Street, distributed photographs of the mud on East Oak to the aldermen Tuesday. Wells said she was concerned the mud may cause her elderly parents to fall.

Resident Dorothy Sanders said she stopped to speak to the foreman on the construction site in June after mud had piled up at her church, Greater New Zion Baptist Church at 22 E. Oak St.

“They said they were going to do something about it,” Sanders said.

Resident Claudia White told the aldermen Tuesday she got stuck in her own yard Sunday in mud that slid down from the site. White said she has no problem with the development and was happy to see construction in her neighborhood.

“Just have consideration for my property,” she said.

Residents reported to the aldermen that workers had been seen dumping mud into the city’s drainage system.

Ward 5 Alderman Mark Fortenbery asked Public Works Supervisors Justin Dollar at Tuesday’s meeting to check on that allegation. Dollar said he would visit East Oak Street to inspect the problem.

Public Works cannot enter private property to do work, however, Dollar said.

Ward 2 Alderman Rickey Gray asked Dollar to ensure mud was cleared from the roadway to allow residents a clear path to church on Sunday.

Workers presumably with the project’s construction company were on East Oak Street Wednesday shoveling mud and dirt off the street and carting it in a wheelbarrow back to the construction site.

Mud is not the only issue residents have had with the housing development construction.

Robinson said a light fixture on her property was removed assumingly by construction workers. A tree from the construction site also fell onto Robinson’s gas grill on her property.

“I think they should pay for everything they have destroyed,” said Robinson’s daughter Shenita Mosby said Wednesday.

Sanders told the aldermen a fire hydrant was moved away from houses on East Oak Street and closer to the construction site, which she said was concerning for residents since the move meant the water supply needed in case of fire was now farther away from their houses.

Natchez Fire Chief Aaron Wesley said he would check on the location and movement of the hydrant.

Chartre Consulting representative David Kelly said the company would not have moved a fire hydrant unless city engineering had instructed them to do so.

Kelly said Gray was contacted when workers realized there was a problem at the site and said he thinks Gray asked the residents to speak at the aldermen meeting as an act of “grandstanding.”

“We don’t appreciate that,” Kelly said.

A silt fence — which Kelly said the city requires — is at the site to prevent the ground from sliding.

“Listen, y’all had eight inches of rain (over the past few days), and the silt fences just could not handle that much volume that quick,” he said.

Kelly said more silt fencing would be added to the site as well as hay bails to mitigate the mud problem.

Sanders said she and other residents think the mud sliding could have been avoided if the company had built a permanent retaining wall.

“Well, that’s great if (the residents) are engineers and can prove that,” Kelly said Wednesday when informed of the residents’ thoughts.

Kelly said prior to this week, he had not been made aware of residents’ complaints and would make sure residents have proper phone numbers to call so that their complaints go to someone that can ensure the problems are resolved.

Kelly said Chartre has paid for retaining walls and other remedies on other projects to alleviate similar problems for residents.

“The bottom line is if we know there is a problem, we’re going to fix it,” he said.

The 24 single-family detached townhomes, which Kelly values at $130,000 each, planned for East Oak and St. Catherine streets are expected to be complete in March or April. The Section 42 lease-to-purchase houses will include three bedrooms and two bathrooms.