The Village of Natchez Village Council met at the New Birth Baptist Church Thursday, March 2. The mayor and all three aldermen were there as well as special guests and members of the community.
The agenda contained several contentious items concerning police matters, beautification, and sewerage.
The meeting began with the call to order, roll call, invocation and pledge of allegiance. Invited guests Mr. & Mrs. Kevin and Carla Hamilton, owners of K&C Delivery Service and Tasty Treats, stated that they were in the process of reopening the old Rite Way Grocery in Natchez. Russell Meissner, branch manager of J&J Exterminating, brought the council up to speed on the progress of battling the rat infestation in the city hall building. The building is also suffering from termite infestation.
Police Chief Michael Gillie, Jr.’s report outlined the challenges facing law enforcement in the village. The Dollar General store has suffered from a rash of thefts and as a result four warrants have been issued for the arrest of suspects. There is also an investigation into passing counterfeit currency at the store.
The department is currently a one man show with Chief Gillie as the only member of the department. The village’s dire financial straits have made recruiting and retention of officers difficult as has the dilapidated condition of the department’s only car. The village was in line to purchase a police vehicle, but was unable to complete the purchase due to finances. An at times heated exchange occurred between alderman McKinley Hoover, a former Natchez police Chief, and Chief Gilley with alderman Hoover stating that he got the job done with the resources he was given, often less than they have now. He described the police car he had as in worse shape than the current one, which compared to his “looked like a Cadillac”. Alderman Hoover provided what little levity there was at the meeting when he spoke of giving a motorist a speeding ticket and then needing a jump start from that driver. Chief Gillie stated that as the speed cameras are not being used and the police car is inoperative, the department is not bringing in any revenue. Chief Gillie pointed out that he is also an officer in Robeline, which is how he supports his family, and has answered calls for assistance at all hours of the night. Mayor Patsy Ward Hoover stated that she is looking for the means to fund a police vehicle.
Mr. Clave Davis of the village’s sewer department gave the next report. Once again, the village’s financial situation is proving difficult. The system’s pumps are not all functioning properly and are unable to keep up with heavy rainfall. There are also problems with the system’s oxidation pond. Illegal sewer hookups into existing lines are also causing problems. Often done haphazardly, the hookups are not only illegal, they are causing sewage problems as well. In the words of Mr. Davis “When we did a smoke test, the fire department thought there was a fire somewhere!” Manholes are also located in ditches rather than being elevated, causing further water issues. There are also over $30,000.00 worth of unpaid sewer bills which further hampers the village of Natchez’ ability to operate.
The mayor’s report was a discussion of the village’s beautification efforts, specifically the need to remove inoperative vehicles from yards. This resulted in impassioned pleas from citizens with vehicles that would be affected.
The council adopted the minutes of the February 6 meeting. There were no appointments to boards or commissions, nor was there any old business.
New business drew another controversy when Alderman Monique Sarpy noted that an item she wished to have on the agenda was not. Mayor Hoover pointed out that as mayor, she had the prerogative to set the agenda. After citing the Lawrason Act and conferring with village attorney Alex Washington, the meeting proceeded.
The KLB Beautification grant is proceeding well. Flowers will be planted along Highway 1 and around the Natchez sign. Later in the Meeting, Mr. Kris Hall stated that he was going to donate funds for the purchase of the flowers.
The second item of new business revisited the longstanding issues of drainage and ditches.
There was no introduction of proposed ordinances, public hearings nor resolutions. or other agenda items. During the non-agenda items, Alderman Monique Sarpy brought up an issue concerning the village’s contract with Waterworks District # 2. There was considerable confusion over the contract’s term of three vs. six months and whether or not the contract was properly done. Village Attorney Alex Washington stated he will have to examine the contract and the circumstances surrounding it before he can form an opinion. The contract is key to the village’s ability to enforce the payment of sewer bills.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:10.