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Recreation director salary funds allocated

NATCHEZ — The effort to form a consolidated countywide recreation program took its first real step toward the starting block Monday when the Adams County Board of Supervisors voted to allocate funds toward a recreation director’s salary.

The vote came at the request of Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission Chair Tate Hobdy, who said the commission has been meeting since 2009 but can’t take any action without the permission of the boards that formed it — the supervisors, the Natchez aldermen and the Natchez-Adams County School District’s board of trustees.

“We can’t do anything without y’all’s approval,” Hobdy said. “I put the ball in y’all’s court.”

The recreation commission believes that hiring a director would be in the best interest of a consolidated program, he said, but such a person would be serving in a joint position.

The commission has created a framework to support the joint position, with the City of Natchez paying the director’s benefits, providing a vehicle and $15,000, Hobdy said.

The county would in turn contribute $45,000 a year toward the director’s salary and turn over the county recreation budget to the director for the management of county parks.

The director would be someone who knew not only how to manage parks but how to keep them compliant with the appropriate standards, Hobdy said

“We need a park director who can put together a one-, three- and five-year plan for those parks,” he said.

When Supervisors President Darryl Grennell asked why the proposal wasn’t presented during the county’s budgeting process, Hobdy said it was actually the second time the board was seeing the proposal. The first time was in April, when the supervisors, aldermen and NASD trustees had a joint meeting with the recreation commission.

Supervisor David Carter — who at one time served on the recreation commission — said this year’s contribution could be prorated beginning with the hire of the director, and that someone should be in place before the ultimate goal of building a recreation complex is realized.

“You need to hire someone who can organize and run a recreation complex,” Carter said. “Then when you build the complex, you have a plan to run it. Let’s figure out what we are going to do before we build it.”

Supervisor Mike Lazarus expressed concern that the current volunteer groups who maintain the county parks might be pushed to the side.

“The volunteers, they pretty much police the place,” he said. “If you want to have a function down there, schedule it and they will clean up afterwards. They take pride in their park, and I would never want to lose that.”

Hobdy responded that even in large areas, recreation departments depend on volunteer labor and that need would never go away.

“A ship needs a captain, and we need somebody that knows recreation, that knows the trends in recreation and who knows how to fund recreation,” he said.

The supervisors voted to fund the position prorated through the end of the fiscal year, and Grennell said the full funding of the position would be discussed at the budget planning session for next year.