Senior center grant push needs caution

Published 12:06am Thursday, April 24, 2014

Natchez city aldermen are wise to tread carefully through the “free money” minefield of grant funding.

Tuesday several aldermen questioned plans for the city to fork out $350,000 in matching funds for a grant to build the city’s second senior center.

The proposed building at North Natchez Park would require, in total, a $477,180 match from the city.

Of that, $350,000 would be cash and the rest through in-kind services. Of course, since the in-kind services presumably would be done through city workers, public money would still be spent on the in-kind services, despite no actual direct cash outlay.

Assuming the grant is secured, the proposed plans raise significant questions. The most pertinent one being not whether or not the city can move forward with the construction but should it?

Does Natchez need a second senior citizens center? The current facility is in a beautiful old school building in downtown. Before the city drops more money into a new building, city leaders should seriously consider how that money might better be used in making repairs and renovations to the existing center.

If not, the city may be facing double the maintenance and operating costs soon trying to keep two centers operating at once, unless, of course the plan is really to shutter the existing facility soon.