City to borrow $750,000 to finish north Natchez drainage project

Published 12:16 am Thursday, August 15, 2019


NATCHEZ — City of Natchez officials plan to borrow more than $750,000 needed to finish the final phase of the North Natchez Drainage project proposed in 2002 that entails widening, overlaying and digging drainage systems on several Natchez streets.

The first phase of the project completed more than a decade ago included the replacement of underground drainage pipes and equipment on Canal, Madison, Wall and Oak streets.

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The decision to finance the remainder of the project passed on a 4-2 vote during Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting with Alderman Dan Dillard and Sarah Carter-Smith voting against it.

Dillard argued the city had sufficient funds to fully cover the bulk of the project, adding the remainder of the streets could be included in a separate project when the board finishes the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget.

City officials previously agreed to proceed with the baseline portion of the project for $2,124,656, which would cover improvements on Marblestone Road, Daisy Street, Inez Street and Brookview Lane.

Officials said the city had sufficient funding for those streets through grants from the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

However, there was not enough money from the grants to fund additional work needed at Brown Subdivision and Smith Lane, which would cost the city an additional $769,474.65.

Dillard said he would rather wait to complete only the portion of the project that has been funded.

“What essentially happens with grabbing the other two additions is creating a new project,” Dillard said. “There are other problems in our wards that are not going to be able to get funded until this project is completed. Continuing to add more work to this project without the money in place will continue to put these other wards behind so that they may never get taken care of.”

Alderwoman Smith said she would also like the Board of Aldermen to have at least one budget meeting before agreeing to borrow funds.

“It’s irresponsible to say automatically that we will proceed with this project when we don’t even know where we stand in 2020,” Smith said. “… A bond or a loan is money we have to pay back, and we don’t know that we can budget that right now.”

Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, who initiated the motion, argued that the project is near completion and has continued to drag on without being funded for too long.

“This project started a little after 2000,” Arceneaux-Mathis said. “The City of Natchez — to date — has not put any money into this project. We’re at the very end of the project, which is nearing about $12 million in total. … We’ve found the match for every part of this project … and we’ve been talking about it for the past three years. At this point, I think it’s time for us to move forward with it and get it done.”