County moves on recreation, wants director hired soon

Published 12:11am Tuesday, June 17, 2014

NATCHEZ — Adams County Board of Supervisors agreed Monday they want to move forward with a plan for recreation — with or without the City of Natchez.

During the board’s meeting Monday, Supervisor Mike Lazarus said he wanted to reach out to the Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission and get a director hired as soon as possible.

“We need to contact the recreation board and go on and hire a director,” Lazarus said. “We have parks all over this county that are ours, and I just think as a county we ought to go and hire a director to build up our programs.”

The board had previously agreed to fund two-thirds of the recreation director’s salary with the City of Natchez picking up the remainder. But at the request of recreation commission member Bubba Kaiser earlier this month, the board voted unanimously to fully fund the director’s position along with benefits.

The vote came after a concerned citizen asked the county board to get moving on the long-stalled recreation proposal.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen recently voted to turn over all of its $1.4 million recreation budget to the creation commission. As part of the commitment, the city board asked its attorney to find out if the supervisors would commit to $5.4 million in funding for a proposed future recreation complex. Members of the supervisors said the board couldn’t commit to spending money for a complex until the bankruptcy and sale of Natchez Regional Medical Center are completed.

Lazarus said he felt that certain members of the commission were holding the proposal over the city’s head for undisclosed reasons.

“I say forget all that,” Lazarus said. “This is not a fight with them over there. This is about us doing what’s right for the county.

“If (the city) wants to come along and put their money in, that’s fine.”

Lazarus said putting a director in place was the first step needed to allocating funding and building up recreation programs.

“There’s money out there, but we need to go on and hire a director to approach all these people,” he said.

The supervisors had previously committed to providing $45,000 for the director position. At the time, the figure was considered to be two-thirds of the salary for the proposed position.

When the board voted earlier this month, the members reaffirmed the $45,000 number along with benefits as the salary.

The interlocal agreement that formed the recreation commission specifies the three participating bodies — the aldermen, the county supervisors and the Natchez-Adams School District’s Board of Trustees — each appoint three members to the commission.

Lazarus said he wanted all nine commissioners, not just those representing the supervisors, to understand the county’s position.

“I want the whole commission to understand that we want to move forward,” Lazarus said. “I don’t know what you’re going to spend money on right now without a director.

“This is the first step, and if no one wants to get involved, we can just do our own youth programs.”

Lazarus asked the board for a unanimous consensus on the matter that Supervisor David Cater, who is the county’s liaison to the recreation commission, could take back to the commission.

Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said he was confused by what Lazarus was asking the board to do at first, but agreed completely after an explanation.

“We’re wanting to give a charge to the commission to go ahead and hire somebody,” Grennell said.

The recreation commission was created after the residents of Adams County overwhelmingly passed a non-binding referendum in 2009, stating support for a consolidated recreation complex.

The referendum referenced a potential complex that was not to exceed $5.4 million in cost.

Since 2009, the proposal has shifted from building a single complex to broader talks of a unified city-county program, and in recent months the discussion has focused on funding and how much each participating government body will provide.