Thursday, November 16, 2006

What the Mayor & Board of Aldermen Are Up To Now!

I've been sick for several days and was unable to attend the meetings of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen. Fortunately, Gwen attended and sent the following report. (Also see this article and this one in the Democrat) - Casey Ann

The board and mayor (as the Finance Committee) met at the mayor’s office with representatives of U.S. Networx to discuss the possibility of a City website. The proposed website would promote “open government” as Irvin Bullet, the rep. for Networx, stated. The website could include individual Ward News, police contact, ordinance information, and board minutes by key word and date. “People want to know what’s going on”, commented Mr. Bullet. Newcomers to the city could access information regarding car tags, preservation and planning guidelines. The boa seemed very supportive of the idea and Ms. Mathis was emphatic about including a mission statement. Currently, there are several Natchez websites and the city has a small webpage included among those websites. Mr. Bullet also commented that Natchez…”hasn’t been sold as a City…” as far as quality of life with parks and recreation. The website funding will come from a $100,000 Planning Grant the city received a year ago. The initial costs are the largest while sustainability is minimal. Mr. Bullet said his firm would teach the City how to maintain the website.

Sounds good to me! I've been pestering the City and the County for ages to join the 21st century and get a presence on the Internet. The County recently voted to do it. - Casey Ann
We convened to City Council Chambers across the street where all boa and officials for the new Convention Center Hotel gathered for an executive meeting. In addition to the boa were Walter Brown, Walter Tipton, Tourism Chairman, Tom Bauer, hotel developer, Warren Reuther, New Orleans Hospitality Consultant, Paul Buckley, hotel manager.

At the open meeting, after the usual preliminaries, the floor was given to Walter Brown to introduce the Bauer delegation. Walter explained that the marketing group from N.O. will possibly negotiate a convention marketing plan and management agreement for both the hotel and the convention center with the city of Natchez. Mr. Bauer was introduced and in his address immediately referred to the hotel as a catalyst for the riverfront development. The hotel property sale will close in Dec.; construction will start in Jan. with an opening by end of 2007. He said Buckley and Reuther will manage the hotel and he cited their particular experience and accomplishments. Mr. Buckley is retired from Hilton Hotels and Mr. Ruther oversees the Super Dome, the Convention Center, the Municipal Auditorium, and the Alaria Center.

Although I think professional management of the Convention Center is an worthy idea, the proposed management companies' connections with casinos definitely worries me. Thanks to Alderman Gray for brining up the fact they were voting on something with little prior notice. God forbid they should let the public know ahead of time. - Casey Ann

Walter Brown then brought before the board the request for Ordinance change to allow a waiver of building/ construction fees for non-profits (Habitat for Humanity), and on this occasion, the desire to waive fees because Bauer’s project will be an economic benefit to the community. Mr. Brown referred to language in the MS Code, Section 21-17-1 and referenced Sect. 90 – 27 “to amend waiver of building fees”. Mr. Brown said the waiver of building fees was a part of the original agreement between the City and Mr. Bauer. Alderwoman Mathis made the motion to “make public our intent to proceed with management of Hotel/Convention Center and all other tourism related activities”. Ricky Gray offered his objection to not having had access to this information prior to the meeting but nonetheless voted to approve the changes. The motion was passed unanimously .

The bids for golf carts were opened and the low bid accepted. Brett Brinegar reported that a $20,000 grant with matching funds was awarded for reprinting of the African American Heritage Tourism brochures. Ms. Brinegar also said the Forks of the Road meeting went well and there would be a second meeting for public comment and a third, wrap-up meeting. Mr. Tipton reported that his department wished to re-bid the security contract for the Visitor Center. They’ve not been completely happy with the current arrangement. Security costs are, in part funded by MDOT, NPS, and some of that money may apply to the cameras they use at the facility. Mr. Tipton said tourism was up a bit since Katrina but not nearly as high as pre-Katrina. 22,000 people have visited the Visitor’s Center and they’ve had $2000 sales in movies. Balloon Race t-shirt sales were up 18%. Garbage Bids were received and opened. The low bid was received from Waste Management (current provider) for $8.15 per household, twice weekly. The awarding of bid was deferred until a later date. Previous charges were $6.75/per household, twice weekly.

The mayor and boa discussed an ongoing effort to hire a lobbyist. The Mayor was to meet with a representative from Thad Cochran’s office that afternoon at 4pm. Ms. Mathis made a motion that Mr. Sanders, City Attorney, write a letter to Mr. Cochran reminding him of the $1.6 million allocated for road repairs for Natchez. She expressed her concern that the money would still be available in light of legislation conducted within “a lame-duck Congress”. Ricky Gray and Joyce Mathis did the usual grilling of Mr. Ivey and Mr. Dawes over grass-cutting, drainage problems, retaining walls, etc. Mr. Gray wants the potential Fire Dept. employees to appear before boa before they’re hired.

Requested Proposals for riverfront development will be received on Nov 16 and prospective developers will be interviewed first week of December. The Mayor said there were many strong proposals and outside help would likely be needed in determining what is best for Natchez.

Outside help? You don't suppose he might consider the citizens of Natchez? Nah!
I'm also awaiting a report from Chesney on the Trust for Public Land possibilities. It will probably be the next post on the blog.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh my God!!!! The grant that you reference, "The website funding will come from a $100,000 Planning Grant the city received a year ago" was, "To prepare a Community Development Master Plan for the City of Natchez." To use this money for a website will violate the Scope of Work submitted for funding. The grant was funded through the HUD - EDI Grant Initiative specifically to fund the preparation of a Community Development Master Plan.

Here we go again!!!!!! Mayor West is simply trying to grease his palms every way he can.

I will certainly forward this to the HUD office.

This is absolutely ridiculous.

This city administration is committed to doing what is wrong.