Ad Spot

Natchez Public Works short staffed with hiring freeze

NATCHEZ — A few city departments are understaffed, but city officials have placed a hold on hiring new employees until they have a clearer view of how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact the city’s revenue, officials said.

In Tuesday’s finance and regular meetings of the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen, officials put off replacing two part-time clerks at the Tennis and Golf Pro Shop at Duncan Park and filling several open positions in the Public Works department while the department heads grapple with being short-handed under the hiring freeze.

Public Works Director Justin Dollar said with two employees being out of work on doctors’ orders due the pandemic one who is transferring to the Natchez Police Department and no inmates helping in the field, his department is struggling with fewer than 50% of its employees and no decrease in the workload.

“Vacancies hurt,” Dollar said. “All of these jobs are in the budget and I’d like to see the board’s position on putting in these applications so that we can start putting people back on our staff.”

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell recommended that officials defer approving new hires until they know how the city’s revenue will be impacted.

The Mississippi Department of Revenue should be dispersing the city’s tax revenue in early June, Grennell said, adding he anticipates some relief dollars to also trickle down to municipalities from the federal and state governments.

“We all know that we had this unexpected event to hit us — this pandemic,” Grennell said. “We all know that we have lost revenue. We don’t know exactly what major impact it has had on the city. We’ve been doing our due diligence to find an exact number. My recommendation would be to defer this until we can see what kind of numbers we get back from the department of revenue and see how much the city has been impacted economically as a result of this pandemic.”

Consequentially, jobs such as repairing streets or grass cutting on delinquent properties that have been adjudicated may take longer, officials said.

“I understand the situation we’re in, but I want to make sure everyone understands we’re functioning at less than 50% of our labor and field workers and the call volume has not stopped,” Dollar said. “… The workload is still there and we don’t have the individuals to do the same amount of work that has been done in the past. As long as everyone understands that and is OK with that then it’s something we can wait and look at it as time goes on.”

Grennell agreed.

“It’s important for not only the aldermen but the citizens of Natchez to understand that the workforce in the public works department has slightly decreased,” Grennell said. “So if someone wants a pothole to be refilled, for example, it might not be overnight. It may take several weeks and that is due to our shortage of staff and there have not been any replacements due to our shortage of revenue.”