Alternative recreation plan suggested by Mayor Brown

Published 12:15am Tuesday, June 11, 2013

NATCHEZ With plans for a countywide recreation complex apparently sidelined for the moment, Natchez Mayor Butch Brown is offering an alternative — make city-owned Duncan Park that complex.

With the cooperation of Adams County and the Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission, Brown said Duncan Park could be expanded to include more T-ball fields and two more Dixie Youth fields, while Liberty Park could be expanded to incorporate softball and soccer.

The golf pro shop could be renovated to house the new recreation director and the complex office, he said.

“With the exception of the swimming pool, that pretty much meets the recommendations of the (recreation commission),” Brown said.

The mayor said he first proposed the idea at a meeting of representatives from the city government, the Adams County Board of Supervisors and the recreation commission.

Brown said the idea was put forward in part because of the city’s own budget constraints and because he believes the county government would not put forth $5 million for the proposed new complex after meeting bond obligations for economic and industrial developments.

Supervisors President Darryl Grennell has expressed similar concerns in the past.

“The core of the first meeting was that I was making a pitch about accelerating the development of additional recreation facilities,” Brown said.

The city’s existing infrastructure would help reduce overall costs, Brown said.

“We believe the cost (of expansion at Duncan Park) can be done for $1.25 million rather than $5.5 million for the new complex,” he said.

“If we don’t get something going, nothing is going to happen.”

The city would still turn over its entire recreation budget to a joint recreation budget, Brown said, and as part of the proposal Adams County would put in $250,000 for five years to fund the expansion.

The mayor said the proposal is simply an attempt to satisfy the recommendations of the commission, and that it shouldn’t be interpreted as an aggressive stance that the city is taking.

“We are not making a challenge to anybody,” he said.

Adams County Supervisor David Carter — the county’s liaison to the recreation commission and a former recreation commission member — said that while the Duncan Park option has been discussed, the matter hasn’t moved beyond discussion and that no plans have been set.

Carter said he also believes it is important to rely on the recreation commission for its opinion.

The first step to a consolidated county recreation program, he said, still lies in hiring a full-time recreation director.

“I don’t think any of our elected officials have the full scale of knowledge to develop a full-scale recreation program,” he said. “We need somebody to work with us now.”

Recreation Commission Chair Tate Hobdy said the commission’s hands are tied to future action — including hiring a recreation director — because it can only act with the approval of the boards that created it, the county supervisors, the city aldermen and the Natchez-Adams County School District’s board of trustees.

“The mayor had mentioned some things that he wanted to do that were not in any part of our original plan,” Hobdy said. “I and our board would like to be involved with that, but we can only do what we can do — they asked us to go out and plan a recreation commission and how to run it, and they haven’t gone with our plans.”