Aldermen debate which streets will be repaired

Published 9:00 am Sunday, October 30, 2022

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NATCHEZ — A saying about government goes, “Laws are like sausages. It’s best not to see them being made.”

The Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen made some sausage Tuesday evening at its special meeting of the finance committee, during which aldermen discussed what roads should be included on the list of those to be repaired and resurfaced using the $6 million in bond money recently acquired for the project.

Justin Dollar, the city’s public works director, provided aldermen about six weeks ago with a city street inventory index, ranked based on surface conditions. The streets at the top of the list are those in the worst shape in the city, Dollar said. The streets lower on the list are in better condition, most of them having been overlaid with asphalt within the last eight years.

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Mayor Dan Gibson asked aldermen to look at the list and compare it with streets in their particular wards they think should be priorities. 

The road rehabilitation project will be one of the most significant in recent history, Gibson said. 

Dollar said, after fees associated with the project, about $5.5 or $5.6 million would be available for repairs and renovations of the roads. He said the funds available will repair between 50 and 70 streets, depending on the length of the street and the particular needs of the street.

“I need direction about how the board wishes to proceed with this. You can look at it one of two ways. One, follow the list provided here. Or, you can say we have roughly $5 million to repair roads and can split it between wards, or a combination of the two,” Dollar said. “We need y’all to tell us how you wish to move forward.”

Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Carter Smith said her opinion is roads should be chosen based on Dollar’s list of those in most need of repair. That approach takes politics out of the equation, she said.

However, several aldermen mentioned streets within their wards that need attention worse than others, like B Street and Marin Avenue, Franklin Street, Lower Woodville Road, North Rankin, Auburn Avenue and Arlington Road, Oak Street and Cemetery Road.

Alderman Dan Dillard questioned if the county would also be making road repairs, saying it would be helpful to know what the county is planning in order to avoid duplication.

“I was hoping the board of supervisors would look at these heavier roads…City residents pay county taxes, too,” he said.

Smith and Alderwoman Felicia Bridgewater-Irving said they had heard the county would not be paving many roads this season.

Aldermen agreed to “swap out” roads in their wards with Dollar’s list to get those they think are priorities within their wards into the top 70 roads. They are expected to give their comprehensive list to Dollar by the end of this week.

From there, a request for bids for the work can be prepared, Dollar said.