Gibson breaks tie; efforts for airport study and beautification director approved

Published 6:13 pm Friday, October 13, 2023

NATCHEZ — In an unusual set of situations, Mayor Dan Gibson had to vote three times at this week’s meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen to break tie votes among the aldermen.

The first involved the city paying $12,000 for a consultant to conduct a fresh study of the flying habit of residents in the Miss-Lou market.

The city and county funded such a study, but it is three years old now, and commercial air carriers considering serving Natchez need newer data.

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“This study tracks individuals who are in our Miss-Lou region utilizing their cell phones. They have ways of tracking that data to understand if you are flying, where you are going to fly,” Gibson said.

Previous studies have shown as many as 1,000 individuals from the Natchez airport market drive each week to fly each week out of airports in Baton Rouge, Alexandria, New Orleans and even as far away as Houston.

“This study will show where they are going, how many people are flying and in some cases, where they are coming to Natchez from. This data is critical to recruiting a commercial airliner. A commercial airliner would never locate in your city without studying this report,” Gibson said.

Aldermen Ben Davis, Felicia Bridgewater-Irving and Billie Joe Frazier objected to the city paying for the study.

“You are requesting the city do another study. Why isn’t the county on board with this,” Frazier asked. “We are spending taxpayer money to pay a consultant to do another study when we have a study. We are spending too much money.”

Davis said he thinks the county should pay half the cost of the study.

“We are up against a deadline. We have meetings in November and this study takes three weeks work. At this time, I want to move ahead with funding it,” Gibson said. “The county is doing what it can and the county has spent a good bit of money on the airport.”

“Everytime we come up with this airport, it’s a rush to get it done. We are paying our taxpayer money. If we are going to do it, it is more than fair that everybody be in on it including the county,” Frazier said.

Aldermen Valencia Hall, Sarah Carter Smith and Curtis Moroney voted in favor of the money for the city to fund the study. Aldermen Frazier, Bridewater-Irving and Davis voted against the measure. Gibson broke the time in favor of the study.

In another ask by the mayor, he moved to appoint Tracy McCartney, a Natchez master gardener, as director of the city’s dormant Keep Natchez Beautiful effort.

“Natchez has not been involved in a couple of years with the Keep Mississippi Beautiful campaign. Once we had an employee of the city who had the time and qualifications to lead this, but we do not now,” Gibson said.

He said the city’s last clean up day was unsuccessful because no one was available to lead the effort.

“We are seeing an increase in litter in the city. We have welcome signs that need plants around them, and parks and other places that need beautification,” he said.

 

Gibson said the director position would pay a nominal rate, $800 per month, and also would include $200 per month for expenses and reimbursements for necessary conferences.

McCartney spoke to the aldermen and told them she would be honored to accept the position. She said she has been a gardener for many years and wants to do her part to clean Natchez in beautification, litter control and recycling, all three areas of which she has experience.

Aldermen Bridgewater-Irving said the position has always been a volunteer one and said she thinks it should stay such.

Gibson said he has had conversations with those who lead the state’s Mississippi Beautiful Campaign and learned the state’s most successful cities are those who have a paid director in charge of the program.

Aldermen Frazier and Davis said they think Gibson should put a current city employee in charge of the effort and give them the money for taking it on.

Gibson said no such employee has the additional time in their work day to adequately handle.

Irving made a motion to table the issue, but that ended in a tie. Gibson broke that tie by vote against tabling it.

Then, Aldermen Hall, Smith and Moroney voted in favor of hiring McCartney. Frazier, Bridgewater-Irving and Davis voted nay. Gibson for the third time during the meeting, broke the tie and McCartney was hired.