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Camera fee may be charged for future participation in crime program

NATCHEZ — Citizens of Natchez may be asked to pay a $20 per month fee if they choose to participate in the Project NOLA crime camera program by having new crime cameras installed on their residential or commercial properties.

City officials approved a motion to that effect during Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

In 2019 the city partnered with Project NOLA, a New Orleans-based non-profit organization that installs cameras at reduced prices and monitors them to curtail crime.

The City of Natchez previously agreed to pay $20 per month per camera for cloud storage of footage captured by each camera that citizens would purchase themselves.

The cameras and their installation costs between $325 for a residential camera with a fixed, one direction lens and $585 for a commercial-grade camera that can be manipulated remotely and zoom in up to 1,000 yards.

Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong said the city paid a little over $7,000 for a year of data storage for 32 cameras and in a January meeting, the board allocated approximately $16,000 to purchase additional crime cameras in response to a Jan. 11 shooting incident on High Street.

During Tuesday’s meeting Armstrong asked if willing citizens could pay the $20 monthly fee for data storage and provide a Wi-Fi connection.

“My recommendation to the board is allow the citizens to pay for storage, and we purchase the cameras and have them installed,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said there are very few city-owned buildings with Wi-Fi where cameras could be mounted and each camera requires Wi-Fi and a power source.

“For the most part, these cameras would be going on residential properties as well as commercial properties owned by the citizens of Natchez,” Armstrong said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, officials unanimously approved a motion allowing any new cameras to be installed on a case-by-case basis after asking property owners in areas where they are needed if they would pay for data storage and provide a Wi-Fi connection.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said the city could pay the full cost for cameras in high crime areas where citizens can’t or are unwilling to pay for them.

“If there are some cases that the need is so severe that there are several killings in that area, we are going to have to do something about it,” Arceneaux-Mathis said.

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard also presented a motion that Wi-Fi be installed at the old Boys and Girls Club behind the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center for the purpose of providing a security camera in that area and the board passed the motion unanimously.

Margaret Martin serves as a performance venue for the Natchez Festival of Music, the Natchez Ballet Academy and other events. The building was broken into and vandalized in early January and copper pipes from the building’s plumbing had been removed.

Officials have contacted their insurance provider for the building to have repairs made, Dillard said, adding that organizers of the Natchez Festival of Music may need to make other housing arrangements in case repairs couldn’t be made by the time performances begin in May.

In other matters during Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen, the board:

4Discussed using federally allocated funds from the Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act of 2018 House Bill 1 for street overlay projects. The City of Natchez received the first check from House Bill 1 on Jan. 21 in the amount of $73,315.45, said James Johnston, director of Planning and Community Development. Johnston said the city should expect to receive a total of eight checks in increasing amounts over the next four years and all of the money must be spent on existing infrastructure.

4Unanimously approved work for preventing mudslides on city streets for approximately $16,800.

4Unanimously approved five-year financing for carpeting and baseboards in the Natchez Convention Center exhibit hall with Concordia Bank & Trust at a monthly rate of $1,245 and an interest rate of 2.59%.