City seeks to prioritize $58M in drainage projects

Published 4:50 pm Tuesday, January 17, 2023

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NATCHEZ — City of Natchez officials hope to prioritize a list of citywide drainage projects estimated to cost just under $58 million total before their next regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

David Atkins of A&M Engineering, the firm selected for the projects, detailed some of these and their estimated costs during a special called Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday.

The Mayor and Board of Aldermen plan to break out the projects in phases and pay for them using a combination of American Rescue Plan Act funds and other grants.

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The first to be checked off the list, which the board approved Tuesday, is the Turtle Lane and Eastwood Road intersection near Montebello Gardens, where frequent flooding each time it rains has been a significant problem. Numerous times, cars have been reportedly submerged amid flash flooding in the neighborhood.

The aldermen unanimously approved the use of $200,000 from ARPA and intend to apply for $200,000 in other grants from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to fix these issues. The total project costs just under $400,000, Atkins said.

“The reason Turtle Lane is being discussed now is cars actually end up hydroplaning every time we have a major rain in the area,” Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said. “Some literally have to be removed with the assistance of trucks. The public works director has asked us to really take a look at that one. That item alone matches what we might could apply for.”

Similar and other drainage issues have been reported in other parts of the city — including hydroplaning, endangered houses and commercial businesses and collapsed streets.

West Stiers neighborhood, where the largest number of projects are, is estimated to cost $30 million to fix. Concord Avenue neighborhood, another area of concern, is estimated to cost $6.2 million.

“We’ve dedicated some ARPA funds for this drainage study,” Gibson said. “We’ve reached the end of the North Natchez Drainage Project, which was a multi-million-dollar, multi-year project. While we’ve completed that project, the drainage issues and erosion issues continue. This is a new study and now we’re going to have to get smart and see how we’re going to get it funded.”

Gibson said officials are already lobbying for assistance from state legislators.

“I believe priorities are definitely the Concord area, the West Stiers area and then other smaller bites of the apple that are not quite as expensive,” he said. “I would like to make at least a $1 million or more request of our state legislators if we can identify phases of Concord or West Stiers Lane and a couple of others.”


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

• The board unanimously approved three Mississippi Department of Transportation grant applications for transportation services provided by Natchez Transit and the Natchez Senior Citizens Center.

• A $26,546 bid from Sign Graphics was unanimously approved for new signs to be displayed at each of the city parks. A larger bid for over $31,000 was the only other received.

• An $8,100 bid from Thompsons Tree & Sprang Services for the annual clean-up of Martin Luther King Jr. Street in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday was approved by a vote of 5-1, with Alderman Billie Joe Frazier casting the lone nay vote. Three bids were received and Thompsons Tree & Sprang Services was the lowest of the three, according to Public Works Director Justin Dollar.  Frazier said he couldn’t approve the bid “with a clear conscience” because Thompsons Tree & Sprang Services sued the city over a previous project.

• The board unanimously approved two environmental site assessments using a portion of $492,000 worth of grant funds awarded in to the city in 2021 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Multipurpose, Assessment and Cleanup funding. The first site, estimated to cost no more than $50,000 of the grant funds is the Simmons Steam Cleaners at 123 St. Catherine St., which closed down during the COVID-19 pandemic and is considered a tax-forfeit to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office. The second site is the Industrial Park owned by Adams County for $12,500 of the grant funds.

• The board unanimously approved a change order and closing cost of the North Natchez Drainage Project, reducing the final construction cost from $2,895,946.02 to $2,660,599.65.

• The board unanimously accepted a bid from Smith Painting for $49,526 for paint improvements at Natchez City Hall, which is funded by a Mississippi Department of Archives and History Community Heritage Preservation Grant. A lone bid for the flooring component of the project was unanimously rejected by the board because it exceeded the project budget.

• The board approved a grant application to the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program to help Natchez Fire Department purchase a new 1,000 to 1,500-gallon pumper truck, replacing the department’s old pumper truck that is 25 years old and has in excess of 100,000 miles.

• The board unanimously approved the appointment of Bobby Ford Sr. to the Natchez Housing Authority to replace James West, who declined to rejoin the housing authority at the end of his term.

• The board discussed personnel issues in the Natchez Fire Department and Natchez Police Department in an executive session, which is closed to the public and to the media. Upon their return to open meeting, after an hour in executive session, the board voted to terminate an unnamed employee “for failure to appear for work,” Gibson said.