2024 state legislative session under way

Published 7:31 pm Sunday, January 21, 2024

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2024 is off to a great start! It is encouraging to now see so many successes, including projects that were not too long ago in the planning and development phase, being completed and so many more on the verge of happening. We can now celebrate great improvements in our recreation facilities, public properties, and public infrastructure – with even more to come!

It goes without saying that none of these things would be possible without help from our friends in Jackson and Washington. We are truly blessed to have leaders throughout many chambers, departments, and public bodies that understand the value of investing in our beautiful and historic city.  With the 2024 Legislative Session now under way, we have been busy, making several trips already to Jackson to meet with legislators and state leaders. In fact, I’ll be making another trip to the State Capitol in just a few days! I truly believe in the great wisdom that comes from the Bible: “Ye have not for ye ask not.” I am not one afraid to ask.

Perhaps our biggest ask this year will be for more help to fund stormwater infrastructure improvements. Natchez’ majestic loess bluffs and winding bayous present a unique set of challenges when it comes to drainage and erosion. Not only does the retention of land become a major concern, but also pooling water, potholes, and destabilized roadbeds can lead to dangerous conditions for both drivers and pedestrians. This is why a couple of years back we used some of our ARPA funds to have an engineering firm complete a comprehensive drainage study of our city. Through that study, we have identified various areas of great concern, including severe issues in the Roselawn Subdivision, West Stiers Lane area, Concord Avenue area, Turtle Lane, in addition to other areas already targeted. Already in 2023, the state legislature has provided $1 million in funds to address some of these issues, and we have obtained several million from other sources. We will soon see progress happening. And we also have significant fund requests pending in Washington. More funding is needed, and we will be asking for that continued help this year.

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I truly believe what is good for Natchez is also good for Adams County – and vice versa. It has been a pleasure to work with my friends on the Adams County Board of Supervisors, and I look forward to continuing that working relationship in the next term. One of the most important issues we are working on collaboratively is the Morgantown Road drainage and resurfacing project. Close to 5,000 drivers use this road daily, and any significant rain event causes hazardous conditions. Sadly, we have encountered challenges with the design and scope of this project. I am hopeful that a redesign will be completed soon so that we will be able to get this important work done. This would not be possible were it not for the support we have received both at the state and federal levels. In addition, we will continue working together to further develop opportunities for the Natchez- Adams County Airport, the Port of Natchez- Adams County, and more funding for our new Department of Workforce Development.

As we are making our asks, both in Jackson and in Washington, it is important that we continue to highlight Natchez’s rich heritage and aesthetic beauty. Already, $500,000 in state funds have been appropriated to help with our Mississippi River Bridge lighting project. We plan on continuing to seek additional funding from the state of Mississippi, the state of Louisiana, and the federal government for this important task. We will also be seeking funds to make the U.S. Colored Troops Monument a reality, honoring the more than 8,000 brave African American men who served at Fort McPherson. This is in addition to a major RAISE Grant we will be pursuing from the US Department of Transportation for our “Forks to Freedom” corridor, significantly improving Devereaux Drive, Saint Catherine and Franklin Streets, Forks of the Road, and MLK Triangle.

I am excited about all that we have planned for 2024, more than we have room to mention in this article. The Natchez Renewal continues to move along with lightning speed, and we have no intentions of slowing down! We are grateful to our state and federal leaders, our legislators, congressional delegation, and so many others who have been making so much progress possible.  These are historic times for our city – Because Natchez Deserves More!

Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.