Natchez Board of Aldermen talks unpaid bills

Published 12:05 am Friday, January 8, 2016

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez discussed unpaid bills and the legality of new proposals in their meeting Thursday.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen Thursday accepted two bids for materials and labor for an irrigation system project at Duncan Park, but was not legally allowed to accept any received proposals to install the system.

Duncan Park Golf Course Superintendent Greg Brooking presented the bids to the board.

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City Attorney Hyde Carby said the work was split into three sections due to legal complications.

Jerry Pate Turf and Irrigation is the only supplier in the southeastern U.S. of Toro heads, which are a necessary component for the Duncan Park Irrigation system, Carby said.

Brooking recommended the board accept the Jerry Pate offer for the heads at $73,733.

Jerry Pate and Turf also won the low bid for the pipe wiring work at $25,077.

The installation labor, Carby said, could not be hired by accepting bids because it is more technical and requires more detailed and individualized work.

Instead, the city put out a request for proposals.

Carby said the city is allowed to request proposals rather than accept bids because state statute allows the city to accept proposals only for work that will cost less than $50,000.

The code also requires bids received from out-of-state to include a copy of the company’s resident state bid law.

Though five proposals were received, only one could be accepted under that code, Carby said.

“Four were from out of state and did not include a copy of their states’ bid laws,” Carby said. “(By law,) we can’t consider those bids.”

The one proposal from an in-state provider, Stewart Environmental Construction, was not the lowest bid. Stewart asked $51,975, putting the bill over the $50,000 limit and making it unlawful to accept the proposal.

Carby recommended the city move to allow Brooking to negotiate with Stewart Environmental Construction, to see if they will accept $50,000 or less.

If they accept the negotiations, the project will be operating within its budget.

If the company does not, the city will have to start the process over, Carby said.

A motion made by Tony Fields to pay Paul Jackson and Son Inc. for work performed for the city failed for lack of a second. The company is working on the renovation of the exterior of the historic Mississippi River Valley Railroad Depot on Broadway Street.

Community Development Director James Johnston asked the board to pay the invoice, received Dec. 22, in the amount of $109,875, of which $98,612 will be reimbursed by a Mississippi Department of Transportation grant.

Mayor pro tem Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said the bill could not be voted on without a second.

“We have a contract with this man,” Arceneaux-Mathis said.

Ward 5 Alderman Mark Fortenbery asked Johnston to bring the matter up again in the meeting on Jan. 26.

Johnston said the matter was already on the agenda for a previous meeting, and had been moved once already.

Arceneaux-Mathis said the confusion was a result of an oversight on her part as well as other city staff.

The matter will be addressed again at the next meeting, she said.

The board paid invoices for labor and equipment on the St. Catherine Street trails and the Broadway Street overlay projects, but insufficient funds remained to pay Blain Sand and Gravel for the asphalt itself.

The Dec. 22 invoice in the amount of $80,400 was budgeted to come from the Magnolia Bluffs Casino lease fund.

In previous years, the annual lease payment was deposited entirely in December, Assistant City Clerk Wendy McClain said. This year, the casino is making monthly payments, which is allowed under the casino’s contract with the city, she said.

The board moved to table the motion to pay Blain until the next deposit is received.

The board went into executive session to discuss the matter of West vs. City of Natchez, in which the city is being sued for operating under allegedly improper ward lines. Recently appointed Ward 2 Alderwoman Mary Lee Toles, who is a plaintiff in the case, recused herself from the session.