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City Auditorium repairs over budget

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez has spent three times what it has budgeted for maintenance at the City Auditorium for the fiscal year, and Mayor Butch Brown said more will have to be spent before the year’s up.

Brown told the city’s board of aldermen Tuesday that the air-conditioning units have for several years been “woefully inadequate,” and that two of the larger units in the building have coils that are rusted out and cannot hold Freon, and only half of another of the building’s air-conditioning units works. Brown said he believes the city can cannibalize parts from some of the non-working units to keep the building cool in the short term.

“The compressor from one of the big units is still good, so we can put it in the other one, and that should make it through the summer, but at some point we will have to address air-conditioning,” he said.

The city already had to make an emergency purchase of a boiler for the building last month. Approximately $3,000 was budgeted for the auditorium’s upkeep for the year.

“We have already spent $9,000, and will likely spend more,” Brown said.

Alderman Dan Dillard, the city’s public properties chair, said Wednesday the city ultimately needs to adopt a plan to proactively maintain all of its buildings. The Natchez Community Center, he said, is in dire need of repairs to its bathrooms, roll-up doors and has rot inside its walls.

“There is some point where you have to realize that if you have got issues to deal with, you’ve got to address them,” Dlilard said.

“At home, if the toilet doesn’t work you just jiggle the handle; you can’t just do that with the public (and public properties).”

Having the city annually inspect its properties — ideally, before the budget for the next fiscal year is completed — will ultimately help in planning for budgeting purposes and will hopefully help reduce emergency expenses, Dillard said.

“That way you have some kind of idea about upcoming expenses. You can be proactive rather than reactive,” he said. “There are some things you can anticipate. You can say in the next three years you will have to replace this air-conditioner or in five years you will need to replace this roof.

“The reason we don’t have any money (for such repairs) is because we didn’t budget any money, and the reason we didn’t budget any is because we didn’t look and see (the needs).”