Officials stall recreation director hire

Published 12:11am Friday, March 1, 2013

NATCHEZ — Natchez city officials declined to act on the proposal to hire a joint city-county recreation director after raising questions of oversight, salary appropriations and — ultimately — how much money the city and county would obligate to a joint recreation program.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors and the Natchez Board of Aldermen had a joint meeting Thursday with representatives of the Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission. One member of the Natchez-Adams County School District’s board of trustees, Tim Blalock, was also present to represent the school board.

The recreation commission has proposed that the first step toward a countywide recreation program — and ultimately, a new recreation complex — is to hire a joint recreation director. Under the proposal, Adams County would provide $45,000 for salary annually and turn over its $50,000 recreation budget to the director, and the City of Natchez would provide $15,000 a year for salary, employee benefits and a vehicle.

“A large portion of (what the director will do) will be programming, budgeting and doing capital campaigns until we can get a full program going,” recreation commission chair Tate Hobdy said. “That way, when we get to a complex, we are putting it in capable hands.”

The supervisors have already allocated a prorated $15,000 for the current fiscal year, and supervisors President Darryl Grennell said the board will take up the matter of the full salary when planning for next fiscal year. Hobdy said using the same prorate that the county has used, the city would have to allocate $5,000 for the current year.

But Natchez Mayor Butch Brown expressed concern about allocating any money at the moment.

“The city is still going to be having to maintain a recreation program while this thing is ramping up,” Brown said. “We can’t detract from our program while this one is ramping up. We don’t have the money to add for another recreational package.

“We can’t afford to pay benefits on top of salary. We can’t afford to pay fuel and oil.”

Brown also contended that the issue of benefits had not been brought up in previous discussions, though Alderman Mark Fortenbery, Hobdy and recreation commission member Bubba Kaiser all disagreed with the mayor’s assertion.

Alderman Dan Dillard also expressed concern that the county is willing to commit $50,000 in programming funds to the project, but he said the county also needs to commit the funds the county uses for maintenance of its parks. Based on what he had been told, Dillard said, that amount came to $250,000.

“If the county is committed to moving forward on this, they need to commit $250,000 to the project,” he said.

“If the city turns over its budget, which includes maintenance, the county should also turn over funds for maintenance.”

Supervisor Mike Lazarus said county maintenance employees keep up the parks.

“I don’t know how you are going to do it any cheaper than we are doing it now even if you can,” he said.

“(Under this agreement), we would continue to maintain our parks and pay the light bills. I didn’t see a point in writing y’all a check for $200,000 to do what we are already doing as cheap as we think we can.”

Hobdy said that the county’s continued maintenance of the parks could be considered in-kind contributions.

“Those services have value,” he said. “We are not trying to bog this director down with so much maintenance.”

Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis asked how the director would be kept accountable.

“Our budget and all of our people will now be answering to somebody who we have no jurisdiction over,” she said. “We have too many departments that are being operated by people who don’t have to answer to us.”

Supervisors’ Board Attorney Scott Slover said the director would be answerable to the recreation commission, which was created by the aldermen, the supervisors and the NASD trustees.

“The director has to answer to that board, so if he misappropriates that money he has to answer to them,” Slover said.

Hobdy said the point of the proposal was to take the two existing programs and assimilate them to work together, and to make that happen the new program would need a director, who would act as a point man.

“Right now, we are not talking about dollars,” Kaiser said. “All we are trying to do is get a person to start an organization in essence to take the politics out of this.”

Dillard replied that when someone says an issue is not about money, “it is always about the money.”

After several of the supervisors had to leave the meeting, the aldermen decided to further discuss the proposal amongst themselves next week.

Brown attended the meeting via teleconference. The mayor was resting at home after a corrective surgical procedure he had at MD Anderson Cancer Center earlier this week. The procedure was to correct a previous surgery performed after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008 and treated for three reoccurrences. Brown said he is cancer-free and received an excellent report from his doctors.

“The corrective surgery just limited my movement,” he said. “I am assuming the pain will subside in a couple of days. There has been no change in my cancer status; I am still cancer-free.”

In other news:

4The supervisors met briefly in executive session to discuss an economic development prospect.

4The supervisors adopted a resolution that would allow a consulting group to develop a proposal to create a health care zone in Adams County.

If the zone is put in place, it will free up tax credits for the development of new residences along St. Catherine and Martin Luther King Jr. streets, Brown said.

  • Anonymous

    It looks like some of our alderman and Mayor are making some good decisions. This recreation thing is getting out of hand. It’s going to be a MONEY PIT!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Much like a bad penny that just keeps showing up, so do the talks on the recreation complex.
    I cannot, for the life of me, see how this keeps being resurrected. Let it die a quiet death, because there is NO MONEY right now to undertake this folly.

  • Anonymous

    Good googly moogly!!! Some actual horse sense crept into these Darwinian throwbacks?

  • Anonymous

    Some things you shouldn’t do.
    You don’t tug on Superman’s cape
    You don’t cuss around my honey
    You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger
    And you don’t mess around with our money.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    My opinion B. Brown don’t want to put another endless money pit on the city taxpayers as he did by pushing the convention center for the beatup taxpayers are sick of that convention center and then build another endless pit rec. complex! And they are talking about putting thousands of dollars in new carpet in the convention center when the sewer systems thru out natchez blows the sewer caps off and drains raw sewage in the streets seems to me their priorities are wrong!! County folks are sick to death of hearing about a director and rec. complex with the city and county both are broke and they are saying Tate should go out and get the money from the private moneybags, and industrys!! Economy in Natchez is bad and couldn’t do it in the 80s’ with all plants , oilfield, and etc. was hitting on all 8 cylinders so lets be realistic !!!

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    Tate probably wants to sale liability insurance to the rec. complex and be mayor huh’??!!

  • Anonymous

    khakirat, I cannot speak on this, for I have no personal knowledge as to Tate’s motives. However, I have known Mr Hobdy for many years, and he is a fine,upstanding man. He and his group have worked hard on this, and their passion shows. I can assure you that they know far more about all this than the rest of us. I admire their passion.
    I hope that my own opinion on the matter does not offend any of them, as it is just that- my opinion. I have my own reasons for NOT wanting this complex in this day and time, and have stated my concerns openly. I hope we can all disagree and still respect each other’s opinion and views. After all, that is why there are more flavors of ice-cream than vanilla- we all have our favorites.
    I will continue to respect Mr Hobdy and all of the pro-complex people, regardless of our differing viewpoints, and should it all go towards getting this thing built and on track soon, well,…so be it. I just don’t want our already money-strapped gov’ts to be caught in a financial disaster, because that would affect ALL citizens, including the ones who DON’T want this.
    I have listened to “wise older men” at their coffee tables, and have YET to hear ANY of them IN FAVOR of this.
    I would challenge our gov’t bodies to hold another referendum , and see how many would support it if it causes a tax increase or a peril to our financial security.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    I agree that there should be another vote but that would be when the city and county has a over abundance of money when the economy is booming! Further more, when it comes to large dollar projects I feel the county people should vote on it and as OSG writes the ones that don’t pay property tax are homes appraised at less than $75,000 will always vote for whatever which is different for the folks above that amount! Which makes sense to put it in the sales tax where ever one pays. As far as Tate I know of him and know his parents as well and they are good folks and remember them moving back to Natchez some twenty years ago. I don’t care who the person is when they are pushing a multimillion dollar deal and the situation we have in Adam county!! The problem at the present is that Vidalia got theirs and its killing folks as Tate and his age group for I know I was in his shoes when Adam county was booming with other folks as him but always told its not in the budget some 40 years ago during the 70s’ and 80s’!! Went to the ball park my grandson is playing at in Oakgrove (Hattisburg) and it makes you very envyous of whats in Natchez . So, as the country folks say he needs to go to the private money people to get-er-done!!

    In a message dated 3/1/2013 12:53:50 P.M. Central Standard Time, notifications@disqus.net writes:

    (http://disqus.com/)

    burnleyc wrote, in response to khakirat:
    khakirat, I cannot speak on this, for I have no personal knowledge as to Tate’s motives. However, I have known Mr Hobdy for many years, and he is a fine,upstanding man. He and his group have worked hard on this, and their passion shows. I can assure you that they know far more about all this than the rest of us. I admire their passion.
    I hope that my own opinion on the matter does not offend any of them, as it is just that- my opinion. I have my own reasons for NOT wanting this complex in this day and time, and have stated my concerns openly. I hope we can all disagree and still respect each other’s opinion and views. After all, that is why there are more flavors of ice-cream than vanilla- we all have our favorites.
    I will continue to respect Mr Hobdy and all of the pro-complex people, regardless of our differing viewpoints, and should it all go towards getting this thing built and on track soon, well,…so be it. I just don’t want our already money-strapped gov’ts to be caught in a financial disaster, because that would affect ALL citizens, including the ones who DON’T want this. I have listened to “wise older men” at their coffee tables, and have YET to hear ANY of them IN FAVOR of this.
    I would challenge our gov’t bodies to hold another referendum , and see how many would support it if it causes a tax increase or a peril to our financial security.

    _Link to comment_ (http://redirect.disqus.com/url?url=http://www.natchezdemocrat.com/2013/03/01/officials-stall-recreation-director-hire/#comment-81672 5553:A0WLgK4oCrkzdv01MdD9FQVh9zE&impression=57789dda-82a1-11e2-974f-00259035 e646&type=notification.post.registered&event=email&behavior=click)

  • Anonymous

    I very much agree that Hobdy and gang could be a hero and stop the debating if the confidential spreadsheet were made public, however, my guess is that the pendulum may swing the other way which is why the spreadsheet isn’t flowing around the city with the other sewage.

  • William

    LMAO, Natchez has been discussing a Recreation complex since before I moved out of Mississippi 15 years ago. Noticed on a recent trip through that Natchez still has not done anything but Vidalia sure has a nice looking one in the itty bitty town. Guess they know how to DO as well as talk. Decided it was safer to NOT stop for anything in Natchez and simply locked the doors as I passed right on through going to Vicksburg. Yall sure have a lot of crime in Natchez now! Might do better spending your money on more jails instead.

  • Anonymous

    Jails ARE on the agenda, thanks for the tip.

  • Anonymous

    William, the reason that Vidalia has a complex and Natchez doesn’t is very simple. MONEY.
    You see, Vidalia has been setting aside for quite a number of years a certain amount from their tax collection that went towards recreation. And that money could NOT be used for anything else. When Vidalia decided to build its complex, it HAD the money already sitting in the bank, earmarked for such a venture.
    Natchez DOES NOT have such an account. There is NO money set aside for this on the county side, either. To come up with 5.5 million the local gov’ts would have to cough it up , with the potential of a tax increase.
    All I know for sure is that you cannot compare carrots to peas.

  • Anonymous

    Vidalia has enjoyed in the past a healthy additional revenue source from the hydroelectric plant thanks to Sidney Murray’s generation. The foresight of setting it aside has resulted in the current complex. In the future, come high water, the hydro plant will pay out its original construction costs and Vidalia will be back in the clover again with a very significant increase in the amount of money they have received in the past. The current financial issues in Vidalia will be short lived and Copeland will live to see another day while looking like a hero.
    Natchez BOA on the other hand, was wondering how to spend the recent windfall of slightly over $1MM with trash talk of putting it into a rainy day fund and no further agenda items to further discuss that outcome…. The BOS still sits on its thumbs while $3-4 Million sits on the books in delinquent fines – but – they want to build a rec complex through raising taxes. Is this anything like Obama/sequestration? Why do you never hear a SINGLE voice on the boards discussing the rec. complex ask for a spreadsheet? That answer is easy – they know but don’t want the public to know.

  • Anonymous

    OSG, am I crazy (duh!) or do I remember when the talks first started on building a hydro plant, that Natchez was approached about getting in on the plan, but the city decided to turn it down? Am I correct in this?

  • Anonymous

    Dunno, but likely. Then it probably would have been a battle on which side of the river the plant would be installed so they could claim the tax monies. Since we only have bluffs, LA was/is the most logical.