Government boards have agreed to recreation department contribution

Published 12:08am Sunday, March 16, 2014

Three entities — the supervisors, the aldermen and the Natchez-Adams County School District —appoint three members each to the commission. While the city and county governments appoint members because they have a financial stake in the consolidated program, the school district has representatives on the commission because the original 2008 proposal called for the school district to donate property and maintenance for a swimming pool.

Though recent action is directly related to the funding of the recreation director’s position, the two boards had already theoretically agreed to the appointment in the interlocal agreement that allows the recreation commission to exist through June 2017.

The agreement states the purpose of the commission will be to “design, plan, finance, construct, operate and maintain a countywide recreation program on real property owned, leased or otherwise held by the city, county or district.”

The plan calls for the director — who the agreement designates as “director of parks and recreation” — to recommend to the commission what needs to happen, and who needs to be hired, to achieve that goal.

Under the agreement, the commission can then approach the governing boards about the issuance of bonds or other necessary funding to develop the consolidated recreation program.

In 2009, more than 78 percent of Adams County voters passed a non-binding referendum supporting the construction of a $5.4 million city-county recreation complex.

The proposed location for the consolidated complex is a bean field near Natchez High School, and though the NACRC has had plans drafted for the bean field proposal, no one has committed to it.

Hobdy said he thinks at this point the bean field development is down the priority chain.

“Step one is getting a director, step two is getting our recreation house in order and step three is developing our existing facilities,” Hobdy said. “Step four is developing new facilities. The bean field should be done, but it should be done smartly.”

Hobdy said he does not think the bean field should ever be ruled out.

“I think it is the right location for a really well-planned recreation complex,” he said. “It has been five years. The problem with recreation is it is easy to put it on the back burner, because it is easy to have something to take precedent, be it economic development or otherwise.”

Fortenbery said in the short term — because the funding for the bean field project does not appear evident — the best plan may be to update Duncan Park for approximately $1 million.

For that cost, a new ball field and tennis courts can be added, and concession stands and restroom facilities can be upgraded, he said.

“Hopefully, we can get a small project going,” Fortenbery said. “We don’t need to be on the top of the mountain from the get-go. We can get a small project going that can be good for the whole community.”