Church to manage city auditorium

Published 12:06am Wednesday, June 26, 2013

NATCHEZ — A Ridgeland-based church will soon be taking over management of the Natchez City Auditorium.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday to authorize Mayor Butch Brown and City Attorney Hyde Carby to negotiate with Christ Life Church at the River, a division of Christ Life Church of the Highlands, to take over the lease of the city auditorium.

The lease is currently held by the New Orleans Hotel Consultants, which manages the Natchez Convention Center and the community center. President Warren Reuther has expressed interest in relinquishing management of the auditorium.

The Rev. David Hale of Christ Life Church said the church plans to host Sunday night services at the auditorium. The church currently hosts services at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Services and at its campuses in Ridgeland and Canton.

The church, Hale said, will also host concerts at the auditorium and plans to accommodate all existing events that take place at the auditorium, such as the Historic Natchez Tableaux and Mardi Gras events.

Preliminary negotiations, Brown said, indicate the church will pay the city a $1,500 monthly lease payment. The church will maintain the interior of the property and has plans to make improvements to restrooms, outside windows and landscaping.

All rentals of the auditorium will go through the church, Brown said, but the city will likely still maintain “veto power” for events.

In other news from the meeting:

-The board voted 3-2 to deny a request to rezone three contiguous lots in the area of 91 Kelly Ave., from I-1 Industrial to R-3 Mixed-Density Residential.

The board previously discussed the request to rezone the property from the owner, and Ward 2 Alderman Ricky Gray expressed concern about the rezoning because residents in the area believe a chemical spill contaminated the area years ago.

Gray once again expressed concern about the rezoning and disappointment that the property owner did not have the site environmentally tested, as the city recently requested.

Bluebird Drive resident Eva Dunkley also spoke out against the rezoning at the meeting.

City Planner Frankie Legaux presented again to the board reports from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality indicating the site would be safe to rezone.

The Natchez Planning Commission recently reviewed the rezoning request and voted to recommend approval to the board of aldermen.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, Gray and Ward 4 Alderman Tony Fields voted against a motion made by Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard to approve the rezoning. Dillard and Ward 5 Alderman Mark Fortenbery voted for the motion. Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith was not present at the meeting.

-The board voted to spend approximately $15,000 to make repairs to the air conditioning system at the Judge George W. Armstrong Library.

The expenditure will cover the cost of replacing a compressor. The system’s chiller has also caused problems.

During the board’s finance session, Brown explained that the city could replace the chiller for approximately $60,000-$80,000. Brown said the company that quoted the price, Terry Trane Service Agency, said regular maintenance to the chiller may allow it to continue to working for two or three years.

“I don’t think we can afford $100,000 of chiller and compressor repairs right now, but I think we can limp along with $15,000 and cross our fingers for two or three years,” Brown said.

Carby said the city could suspend its regular purchasing rules to make the emergency expenditure, given that the library is virtually useless as a pubic property with no air conditioning during the summer.

Brown said that the money for the repairs will likely come from royalties from the Cemetery Road oil well, funding he said the city expects any day now.

-The board appointed Melvin Davis to the Natchez Water Works board. Davis will replace long-serving board member Francis Ranson, whom the board thanked for his service at the meeting.

-The board voted to approve a rezoning request to rezone a vacant lot at the end of Hunter’s Lane from 1 Industrial to R-4 Multi-family Residential. Legaux said Justin Adcock of Alliance South intends to develop 10 two-bedroom, two-bathroom structures for a retirement community at the location.

Legaux said Adcock would return to the Natchez Planning Commission with detailed plans of the development, which will require the commission’s approval.