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Natchez board splits over costs for federally funded projects with mayor breaking tie
from Staff Reports - NEWS
September 11, 2019 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – City aldermen approved funding two soil erosion-control projects for Natchez in split votes Tuesday, but the mayor broke a tie and scratched out work on Learned’s Mill Road to reduce costs. 

The federal government had agreed to provide $1.6 million for five Natchez projects, but this required the city to come up with about $432,000. Mayor Darryl Grennell and aldermen decided they could only afford two projects: a site on Martin Luther King Street near Robert Lewis School and land on Gloucester Court off Lower Woodville Road near Longwood antebellum mansion. 

This reduced the local match to what the board was told it had available for such projects: $117,000.

The U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Emergency Watershed Protection Program distributes money to local governments for combating damage caused by eroding land that threaten homes and streets. 

The Board of Aldermen initially deadlocked 3-3 on a list of that included three EWP projects: MLK Street, Gloucester Court and Learned’s Mill Road going to the Magnolia Vale estate by the Mississippi River. Grennell broke the tie to vote against funding the three. He said the city couldn’t afford it. “I don’t want to adopt an unbalanced budget,” he said.

In subsequent votes, the board went 5-1 for funding the Gloucester Court work and then 4-2 for the MLK soil-erosion project. 

In the initial 3-3 vote, Aldermen Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, Billie Joe Frazier and Felicia Irving favored funding all three projects while Sarah Carter Smith, Ben Davis and Dan Dillard were against.

In a second vote -- going 5-1 – all except Smith favored funding only the Gloucester Court project.

In a third vote – going 4-2 – Arceneaux-Mathis, Frazier, Irving and Davis approved adding the MLK Street EWP project while Smith and Dillard were against.

Smith pointed to how hurriedly city officials reviewed the details, which she said prevented “making informed decisions” about the EWP projects.

In other action Tuesday, the aldermen heard residents’ complaints about a Main Street-St. Charles Avenue house that’s been divided into four apartments for more than 30 years but in a neighborhood where such units aren’t normally allowed. 

While 1116 Main Street had been “grandfathered” in to continue as a four-plex, neighbors complained it’s been a nuisance -- mainly causing street parking congestion on Main and St. Charles. Owner Richard Wilbourn requested the city officially allow the apartment house to continue as a special exception within a neighborhood where only one- or two-family dwellings are allowed. Without this exception, he can’t sell the house for it to remain apartments as he wants, according to his attorney. 

However, the Board of Aldermen affirmed a previous Natchez Planning Commission decision that denied his request.

The mayor and aldermen, as they routinely do, also on Tuesday closed the public out of discussions on issues they don't want openly aired, such as personnel, litigation and the transfer of properties as allowed by state law. They spent more than an hour behind closed doors. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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