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Recreation: Reps. hope for unity

NATCHEZ — Representatives from the City of Natchez and Adams County’s government will meet next week to see if all parties are still ready to play ball when it comes to a countywide recreation program.

The Natchez aldermen and the county supervisors have set a meeting for 10 a.m. next Thursday to discuss the possibility of hiring a recreation director for the future consolidated program.

Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission Chair Tate Hobdy said, ideally, both governments will come out of the meeting with a unified vision for the recreation program.

In recent months, communication between the two boards about the issue has been conducted largely through the recreation commission itself and through local news media, Hobdy said.

“We are trying to get them together because each party has a different perception of what the other party wants to do, so this is an opportunity for them to sit down and iron out the details face to face,” he said.

“We want them to give us some direction on what they want us to do. Our board can’t act until their boards come to a decision, so we hope to have some clarity once they come together and talk it out.”

The recreation commission has proposed hiring a director for the countywide program as a first step forward, with the county contributing $45,000 to the director’s salary and turning over the county recreation budget to the director. Under the proposal, the City of Natchez would pay the director’s benefits, provide a vehicle and $15,000 in salary.

The county board of supervisors voted earlier this month to allocate a prorated salary of $15,000 for fiscal year 2012-2013, but stopped short of dedicating funding for next year. The Natchez aldermen have deferred any action until they can meet with the supervisors.

Adams County Supervisor David Carter — who formerly served on the recreation commission and is now the supervisors’ ex-officio representative on the commission — said the county is committed to seeing recreation move forward.

“We are not trying to make leaps and bounds, we are just taking small steps,” Carter said. “We may be years away from a complex, but the one thing I am trying to say is there is a lot we can do right now that isn’t being done, things like fundraising and program development.

“We want to work with the city to create a positive recreational atmosphere, because city residents are county residents, too, so when the city benefits the county does as well.”

Alderman Mark Fortenbery, the city’s ex-officio recreation commission member, said the issue thus far has been that when everyone comes to the table, everybody has a different agenda.

“We just need to sit down and figure out how we want recreation under one umbrella,” Fortenbery said. “It is kind of like I am at the point where I don’t care who puts in what — let’s make this work. This has been going on for four years, let’s see if we can work this out because we all work for the people who voted for this, both city and county.”

The meeting will be in the city council chambers.