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Calling in a coach? County wants to see recreation director hired

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors agreed Monday they are ready for the next step toward building a recreation complex — but county leaders don’t necessarily think that step is theirs to take.

The supervisors said the next step is getting a recreation director in place.

Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission Chairman Tate Hobdy appeared before the board at its Monday meeting to present the board with a marketing survey completed by OAN Events and Sports Marketing for the proposed complex.

OAN is an independent Florida-based consulting company in the tourism, sports and event industry that specializes in sports marketing and sports facility consulting.

One of the key findings in the survey, according to Hobdy’s summary, is leadership in the form of a recreation director.

“The success of the program hinges on having the right director in place,” Hobdy said in the summary. “This should be the first step.”

Hobdy said after the meeting that the next logical step would be for the city to hire a recreation director.

“Hopefully that person would be over the complex,” Hobdy said.

Hobdy said he believes the city can fund the director’s position with the budget line item for a recreation director’s salary.

Salina Edwards has been serving as the city’s interim recreation director since former Recreation Director Ralph Tedder retired in late 2010.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus said he believed a director needs to be hired to get the ball rolling again on the complex.

Supervisor David Carter, who is the county’s ex officio recreation commission member, said the commission has done everything that has been asked of them so far, but a director is now needed.

Lazarus said he believes the recreation commission should hire the recreation director because it would take any politics out of the matter.

Hobdy said the recreation commission would be more than happy to assist in the hiring process.

“We don’t want to overstep our bounds,” he said.

The marketing survey focused only on the proposed recreation complex, not the existing Natchez recreational facilities. The survey also does not take into account the possibility of partnering with Vidalia on recreational activities such as tournaments, Hobdy said.

The purpose of the survey, as stated in its summary, is to evaluate the potential of the complex, as well as the community’s ability to both garner and sustain economic development through sports-related visitors and to ensure that the facility program, design and the assets of the community will support an economic impact.

According to Hobdy’s summary, highlights in the survey also included:

• The suggestion of using volunteer labor.

• The possibility of building on other tourism events, such as the balloon race and the food and wine festival. According to the survey, that idea could create a lodging conflict, since the city has approximately 1,091 hotel rooms and 147 bed-and-breakfast rooms.

• The suggestion of a separate sports tourism authority being established under the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

• The suggestion that “creative funding” should be considered to elevate any aquatics facility. The facility holds the most cost and has the smallest usable time period. An indoor facility would be ideal, but falls far outside the current budgeted numbers.

• Updates to the softball facility, which are currently included, would be necessary to see any increase in softball activity.

• Annualized growth for tennis in the first year is 10 percent and an additional 5 percent every year after that. Tennis should be, based on percentages, the fastest growing sport in the proposed complex, and it reaches the broadest age groups.

• Baseball is projected to increase 10 percent in the second year. However, the survey found that with the current baseball organization, growth would cease.

According to the survey, “given the number of fields, the optimum size tournaments will remain small to mid-size; however, the potential exists to host more tournaments given the right combination of scheduling for public use as well.”

Hobdy presented the Natchez Board of Aldermen the survey at its meeting last week and plans to present it to the Natchez-Adams County School Board at its next meeting.

In other news from the meeting:

• Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis appeared before the board to make sure it was on record that the aldermen want to meet with the supervisors about fire protection before finalization of the county’s budget.

Mathis noted that there was a discrepancy about when the city came to the county last year to ask for an additional $50,000 to add to the approximately $566,000 fire protection inter-local agreement.

Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell has said the city did not come to the supervisors asking for the additional funds before the county finalized its budget for the current fiscal year.

Prior to Mathis speaking, Lazarus mentioned he thinks some county neighborhoods need more fire hydrants. He also said the county may need to look in to staffing some of the county volunteer fire departments full time.

Lazarus said smaller structures, such as house trailers, are sometimes completely burned by the time the Natchez Fire Department responds to some of the outer lying areas in the county, such as Kingston or Sibley.

“We’re giving a great deal of money to the city…are we getting our bang for our buck?” Lazarus said.

Mathis later said she would make sure the city knows the county does not think it is getting its money worth for the agreement.

Grennell said Lazarus’ comments were not an official report from the board.

Lazarus said he was not displeased with the performance of the NFD he said, though, that logistically some places are so far out for the city that it takes a while for the department to arrive.

“If we could have manned fire houses, it would shorten the response time,” Lazarus said.

Lazarus said he is most concerned about the safety of county residents and their property.

• The board unanimously voted to allow Adams County Administrator Joe Murray to begin advertising for the county information technology director’s position.