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Supervisors investing in Natchez-Adams County Port

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to begin the process of lease-purchasing a warehouse in the Natchez-Adams County Port for $2.5 million.

The county’s financial planner says the purchase won’t count against the county’s ability to borrow for other purposes.

Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said the riverside warehouse is currently used for the housing of products that are off- and on-loaded onto barges in the port. Natchez-Adams County Port Authority attorney Bill McGehee told the supervisors the port has operated the warehouse for Valley National Bank since the bank foreclosed on the building’s former owners last February, and Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said it has always been his contention that the port needs to own, control and operate the warehouse.

The county was awarded the sale of the warehouse by bid, submitting a bid of $2.5 million for the warehouse. Board attorney Scott Slover said a second bidder offered $2.7 million, but the bank chose the county anyway.

The county’s financial planner, Demery Grubbs, explained that while the county would be purchasing the warehouse, it would not affect the county’s overall borrowing ability if the need arises because the county will be entering into what is known as a certificate of participation.

In a certificate of participation, a non-profit organization — in this case, the Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development District — will hold the title and the debt service for the warehouse.

The port will continue to operate the warehouse and generate funds, which will be used for its lease payments.

The lease payments will be the same amount as the note payments that SWPDD would have to make for the building, Grubbs said.

Once the lease payments have paid off the note, the title will be transferred to the county. Slover said the port already generates the funds necessary to make the payments.

In other news:

•The supervisors passed a resolution supporting legislation that would reduce the severance tax on horizontal oil drilling by 4 percent for the state’s share and by 1 percent for the county’s share for 36 months.

Russ said the legislature is looking to pass a statewide measure to entice more oil exploration in Mississippi, with the local emphasis on the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale.

“The cost of horizontal drilling in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale might be a little higher in Louisiana or Texas,” Russ said. “Some of those other places have this legislation in place already, so it is trying to get on competitive footing to make sure we are not behind on that.”

Supervisor Mike Lazarus said he supported the measure if it brings in more drilling.

“One percent of anything is better than 2 percent of nothing,” he said. “Right now it costs (oil companies) close to breaking even.”

•The supervisors voted to accept a bid of $24,000 from S&S Dragline to repair a bridge on Sedgefield Road.

•The board discussed the status of a number of economic development projects.

Much of the discussion was in executive session.

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