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Natchez Board of Aldermen wants city debt details

NATCHEZ — Knowing just how much debt you hold is a good idea. That’s why the Natchez Board of Aldermen asked for a detailed schedule of the city’s debt at their meeting Tuesday.

Alderman Dan Dillard made the motion asking City Clerk Donnie Holloway to provide the board with a list of all the city’s bond obligations, their rates of interest, how much has been paid on the bonds and when during the fiscal year the payments have to be made.

“I don’t have an accounting background, but I think of (bonds) basically as mortgages and loans, and we have to repay these bonds, and over time your intention is to reduce your debt service,” Dillard said. “To get a schedule list would be helpful to this board to find out what kind of debt services you have.”

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said he saw in the city’s financial docket a balance of $17 million in debt.

“I am not sure I agree with that number,” he said.

In addition to debt the city owes on the convention center and a bond taken out for road paving, the city also has a $5.5 million revenue bond that was taken out for Natchez Water Works.

Holloway said the road bond has only one payment of approximately $100,000 left on it, and it will be made this year.

Brown said the city is working with its financial planner, Demery Grubbs, to resubmit its information for a new bond rating — essentially, a municipal credit score — after the slight downgrade the city received to its rating earlier this year.

“We will submit (that information) again,” Brown said. “The issue was our cash balance, and the cash balance we reported was not an accurate number but it was one we used. We have a good cash balance — better than it has been in 10-12 years — so that should satisfy that issue.”

The mayor said having the debt schedule handy will be useful in the city’s work with its financial planner.

In other news:

-Alderman Mark Fortenbery made a motion that the aldermen adopt the city’s financial docket with the exception of a $4,000-a -month increase in the management fee the city pays New Orleans Hotel Consultants for managing the Natchez convention center, city auditorium and community center. The aldermen voted at their last meeting to increase the payment from $20,000 a month to $24,000 a month.

The extra money will be used to fund the work of a marketing specialist.

Alderwoman Sarah Smith seconded the motion, saying she was concerned about how the position would be funded and if the board would be able to monitor its effectiveness.

Alderman Dan Dillard said the increase in funding was the first since the contract with New Orleans Hotel Consultants was put in place, and that the contract had never been adjusted for inflation.

“We are increasing the operating funds, and what (NOHC President Warren) Reuther does with his employees is his business,” Dillard said.

Tourism Director Connie Taunton said she can bring a report to the board each month detailing the work the new marketer will do.

Fortenbery’s motion died with only Fortenbery and Smith voting for it. The board later adopted the docket without the caveat about NOCH funding.

-The board voted to advertise for bids for the Logan building, a city property that the board recently placed on its surplus properties list.

The Logan building is located across the street from the main entrance of the convention center on Main Street.

-The aldermen voted to have the sign at Concord Avenue Park reworked and painted so that it reads “Theodore ‘Bubber’ West — Concord Avenue Park.”

The board voted to rename the park after the late alderman in 2011 but the physical work to rename the facility had never actually taken place.

-Brown announced that the city was going to make a concentrated effort on “reclaiming our neighborhoods.”

“We are going to police the bars in the neighborhoods, and we are going to close them down,” he said. “If you have got a bar and you have got people outside loitering, you are going to meet the law. We are (also) going to break up these people standing around on other people’s property.”

After naming several businesses known for loitering, Brown said, “You are all on notice, and you all know why.”

 

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