Leaders put together picture for new year
NATCHEZ — Looking forward to 2013 in the Miss-Lou requires looking back at some balls that got rolling in 2012 and previous years, local officials say.
Elevance Renewable Sciences — the first of the major economic development announcements made by Natchez Inc. in 2011 — has said 2013 will be a big year for the company’s Natchez facility
Executive Vice President of Sales and Market Development Andy Shafer said in December that the early months of 2013 would be devoted to finalizing the company’s financial plans, approving site design and ordering needed equipment.
After that, significant construction should begin, he said.
The company began producing biofuel in 2012, and is expected to expand its operations to make products that will be used in a variety of cleaning, lubricating and personal care products in the future.
Elevance committed to bringing 165 permanent jobs; 140 people were employed in December 2012.
Natchez Inc. board Chairwoman Sue Stedman said she believes 2013 will be a bright year for several of the economic development group’s recent announcements.
“I think you are going to see construction start on two of those announced projects, but what you may not realize is that construction has been under way on several of those projects throughout 2012, and I think you will begin to see additional construction take place in 2013, weather permitting,” Stedman said. “Project development continues to proceed at a steady pace, and we have got excellent opportunities out there that we are working on, and we certainly hope to bring those to fruition.”
In addition to industrial development, Adams County Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said he wants to see a county litter enforcement officer employed in 2013.
“That’s a major thing I want to happen this year,” he said. “Hopefully that will deter littering and dumping in this community.”
The board of supervisors has previously discussed hiring a litter enforcement officer that would issue citations with fines to discourage littering.
Grennell also said he hopes county residents will have the option to pay their taxes and other bills online in 2013.
Fire protection, which was a subject of controversy and debate between the city and the county in 2012, will also be another big issue in 2013, Grennell said. The city and the county will work together, he said, to map out long-term plans for fire protection.
Grennell said he wants to see those plans include manning some of the county’s rural fire stations.
City of Natchez
Mayor Butch Brown said the city hopes to continue to revamp, restart and rebuild projects in the city.
“Hopefully, Brumfield (Apartments) will reopen (to residents), and the old general hospital resold and reopened (as apartments),” he said.
Brown also said a health care industry announcement could be made in 2013 in the form of an assisted living facility on John R. Junkin Drive.
Work has been done at that site and a turn lane constructed, but developer Gail Evans has said he does plan on building the facility for a couple of years.
Brown said he thinks it will be sooner, though.
Evans has said he is currently developing three other nursing centers in other towns and wants to get those completed before he attempts to develop the property that neighbors the Glenwood subdivision.
Having two casinos open and operating in 2013 could also mean good things for the city, Brown said.
“There’s a ton of things that we could spend a ton of money on,” he said. “We’ll be doing what we need to revamp and redevelop the city. That could mean street repairs, community housing efforts, recreational needs.”
Brown also said he hopes 2013 marks significant progress in the city’s plans for its 2016 tricentennial celebration.
City of Vidalia
Vidalia leaders are hoping for brighter days and higher Mississippi River levels in 2013.
Recent rain and snowfall bode well for the river predictions, but, as she’s proved in the last two years, the river is impossible to predict.
Higher water levels are crucial for the city’s finances, though, since royalties from the hydroelectric plant comprise 46 percent of the city’s expected revenues.
Lost revenues from the hydro plant led to layoffs and cuts in the fall of 2012.
“Hopefully, with the river coming back up and getting to a normal stage, the finances will get back in line,” Alderman Vernon Stevens said.
Still, the city is making preparations for the worst-case scenario.
“We are getting a certificate of indebtedness in case we need to borrow money,” Stevens said. “We haven’t borrowed any yet, but (the certificate is) in case we need to before the hydro revenue comes in and that will be paid back from the hydro money.”
Mayor Hyram Copeland has also said he plans to consider eliminating the city’s sanitation department and contracting out trash pickup as a cost-saving measure.
New fun and games should be on the way to Vidalia in 2013, regardless of the river, Stevens said.
“The recreation complex will be a big boost for the town,” he said of the facility that recently opened to the public. “I coached ball for years and traveled all over the state, and now hopefully we can bring those tournaments from around the state to come here and boost the economy. Those people come and stay two, three days, buy food and gas and get a hotel room.”
Concordia Parish School District Superintendent Paul Nelson and Natchez-Adams School District Superintendent Frederick Hill have similar news on their radars for 2013.
A new accountability system, curriculum and teacher evaluation system for Louisiana schools has Nelson nervous about the upcoming year.
School performance scores will change from a 200-point scale to a 150-point scale, Nelson said. Changes in the way performance is calculated, he said, would mean that many schools whose scores went up this year will go down next year.
For example, Nelson said, ACT scores will account for 25 percent of the score, which has never been done before.
“That has never been part of our curriculum or any part of our accountability system, yet all the sudden it’s going to be one-fourth of the score,” he said. “We have kids who have never taken the ACT tests and have never planned on taking it.”
Similar changes to Mississippi schools’ accountability system have been proposed, but no decision has been made yet, Hill said.
“The current model could change … I’m not worried about it either way,” Hill said. “Since I began teaching, I’ve always been around accountability (systems). I welcome the change, and I believe that accountability is a good thing.”
The NASD will also continue to explore the idea of a magnet school program, as well as dealing with major financial issues recently discussed by the school board, Hill said.