Aldermen to discuss court fines at meeting today

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, January 26, 2016

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Board of Aldermen is expected to take up discussion of municipal court fine collections, digital signage, city finances and other matters at its meeting today.

Texas-based American Municipal Services representative Deborah Sivira is scheduled to appear before the board along with Municipal Judge Jim Blough to discuss fine collections during the city’s finance meeting before its regular meeting.

Sivira made a presentation to the board in October during which she informed the board the company and the city had a contract and that Blough had been uncooperative with turning documents over to AMS to begin the collection process.

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City Hall staff subsequently searched for a record of the contract in the aldermen’s meeting minutes and one could not be found. City Attorney Hyde Carby said Monday as far as he can tell the city does not have a valid contract with AMS in its official record.

AMS provided the city a copy of the contract the company had on file, which was signed by then Mayor Jake Middleton.

AMS Vice President of Sales Jeff Parsons said the company maintains that it received a signed contract from the city.

“We have this happen sometimes, when cities will call and they have a new clerk and say, ‘We can’t find our copy,’ and we’re always happy to mail, email or fax them a copy,” he said.

Parsons said the company’s proposal remains straightforward.

The company adds 25 percent to an offender’s fine, and the company keeps the additional 25 percent as its fee. The total payment for the fine would be remitted to the city.

Blough has previously voiced disagreement with the added percentage, saying, among other things, people who already cannot pay their fines would not be able to pay the added cost.

Additionally, the board of aldermen heard a presentation from Natchez-based collections agency Receivable Solutions with a proposal similar to the one made by AMS.

Mayor pro tem Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said Monday she suggested Receivable Solutions be invited to today’s meeting as well.

Other items on the agenda include:

-A report from Interim City Planner Riccardo Giani about proposed digital signage in the city. Headrick Outdoor Media previously appeared before the board expressing interest in erecting digital billboards in Natchez.

Giani said he would update the board on what is being proposed and the processes that may lie ahead.

“The City of Natchez has standards for billboards and illumination standards for internally lit signs, however no regulation exists for digital billboards,” Giani said. “In order to construct a digital billboard, regulations must be adopted to the sign ordinance in regards to digital billboards.”

-Discussion of city finances, including bills that need to be paid, Arceneaux-Mathis said.

Arceneaux-Mathis said the discussion would likely include a reimbursement that has come in for the Natchez Trails Project and a payment to a contractor for work on the outside of the downtown depot, which the board previously tabled.

-An update on Fort Rosalie from Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent Kathleen Bond.

4Discussion of the proposed consolidation of the Natchez Visitor Reception Center logo shop and the National Park Service’s Eastern National Bookstore.

-An update on the city’s tourism department from Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Kevin Kirby.

-Discussion of proposed installation of irrigation system at Duncan Park.

-Update on E-911 from Police Chief Danny White.

The board will meet in the Natchez City Council Chambers, with the finance meeting beginning at 4:30 p.m. and the regular meeting at 6 p.m.