Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Arkansas tourists Susanne Hurt and Emily Williams walk to their cars after their tour of the antebellum house Auburn Friday afternoon. Cracks along the edge of the columns on the second floor balcony are evidence of rot and underlying damage below the flooring.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Arkansas tourists Susanne Hurt and Emily Williams walk to their cars after their tour of the antebellum house Auburn Friday afternoon. Cracks along the edge of the columns on the second floor balcony are evidence of rot and underlying damage below the flooring.

Archived Story

Auburn looks at nearly $100,000 in repairs

Published 12:04am Saturday, May 25, 2013

NATCHEZ — The more than 200-year-old Auburn antebellum house may soon be getting much-needed repairs.

Auburn Home President Clark Feiser said the upstairs balcony of the city-owned property is plagued with water damage that is causing structural problems.

Feiser said the plaster on the balcony’s columns needs to be removed and the brick repaired, which would cost at most $45,000.

The floor of the balcony also needs approximately $25,000 worth of repairs, Feiser said.

The roof also needs approximately $30,000 in repairs, Feiser said.

All of the cost estimates, Feiser said, are ballpark figures. The full extent of the damage to the columns and floor will not be known until the plaster is removed and the flooring taken up.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen gave the nonprofit historic preservation society that operates the house permission at the board’s last meeting to get cost estimates and discuss a loan with Britton & Koontz Bank.

Mayor Butch Brown said the thought is that the Auburn group will pay back the loan, and the city will essentially co-sign for the loan.

Feiser said the group’s monthly lease payment to the city will be used to pay off the loan, if it is granted. The money the group pays each month varies, Feiser said, based on its ticket sales.

The Auburn group pays at least $150 each month or 25 percent of its monthly tourism revenue. Feiser said the group generally pays more than $150 each month.

The money, Brown said, goes back to the operation of Auburn. The loan would be needed, he said, because the group does not have the money immediately available in its treasury.

Brown had not heard the official estimates of the repairs until Friday but said the city would consider the loan.

“That information is something we will certainly take and consider whether that is something we can afford,” Brown said.

Feiser said the repairs at Auburn are needed to ensure the costs do not keep piling up.

“It’s just going to get worse and worse and worse,” he said. “It needs to be done or whatever these figures end of being, it’s going to be twice that much if we continue to wait.”

Brown said he agrees that the repairs do not need to wait, as it could just create a bigger problem for the city.

“We don’t want to delay it,” he said. “If the columns fell because the they weren’t repaired, then we would be talking about (a lot of) money.”