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Let’s step up to the plate, play ball

Recreation continues to be a hot topic. The local population voted in 2009 that recreation is worth investing in.

Of course in 2009-2010, the financial situations of the area were in a different position than they are now. We as recreation commission members, appointed by the city, county and school board, are aware of hard economic times that have taken its toll on our area. Therefore, in the last two years the commission has shifted its focus from trying to build the original plan presented and concentrate solely on managing our current assets. Asking the Board of Supervisors and Board of Alderman to unite on our goal and combine both city and county budgets and assets, and to allow the recreation commission to hire a director to oversee them.

We as a commission feel as that right now is not the time to ask the city, county or school board for additional funding. Until we have a full time director that can develop a long term plan, we do not think it is prudent earmark funds for an undeveloped plan. In the last 5 years since the voting took place, our needs have changed. Therefore the commission wishes to combine the budgets, hire a director and assess the needs of the community, and then come back with a long range plan to maximize our current facilities and strategically incorporate new facilities.

The county has seven parks in its recreation inventory. Because of the way the supervisors maintain their books, only $50,000 is allocated to recreation. However, that is not all that is spent on these parks. The county shares includes services from other departments as needed to make repairs and maintenance rather than allocating budget funds. The $50,000 is allocated for donations and purchases of new equipment occasionally. They have no dedicated recreation employees.

The city keeps a much more detailed record keeping system. City assets include three parks, golf course, tennis courts, upkeep of Martin Gym and Concord Park.

The city budgeted $1,042,654 for the 2013-2014 year. If you figure, 260 working days in a year equals $4010 spent on recreation by the city every working day of the year. Keep in mind recreation commission has no control over these budgets or expenses.

The budget has increased $144,000 in the last two years although administration has been reduced roughly 75 percent. Golf actually spent $451,305 in 2011-2012, yet $585,592 is budgeted for 2013-2014. A $134,000 increase. Tennis spent $93,871 in 2011-2012; however, $164,400 is budgeted for 2013-2014. An increase of $71,000.

Additionally, there is the $1,000,000 paid over three years from Magnolia Bluffs Casino that is supposed to be earmarked for recreation or YMCA. It is our understanding that the first payment has been paid, but we do not see where that has been allotted.

The county has offered to contribute its $50,000, and to continue to maintain its parks. They have also agreed to fund a recreation director salary and benefits. The county will then consider funding a long range plan once it is proposed by the director.

The city has made several different offers to the commission. Most of the offers exclude giving the director oversight over the golf course budget and its assets. All of the offers are contingent on the county allocating funds ranging from $1.25 million to $2.5 million. Again, the recreation commission doesn’t think that it is prudent to divide recreation into golf and non-golf activities, or set an arbitrary amount of funding without a long term plan. The recreation commission’s goals are to consolidate the city and county recreation budgets and assets, hire a professional director, maximize our current recreation system and strategically plan for future enhancement of recreation in Natchez and Adams County.

The recreation conversation has gone on too long with no substantial progress being made. The recommendation of the recreation commission remains as it has for the last several years that a full-time professional recreation director is critical to help move recreation forward in this community. Our goal is to consolidate redundant recreation programs to better serve everyone in the area — young and old alike, and to do it in a responsible and planned method.

The Board of Aldermen has requested that the city appointees of the recreation commission be present at 10 a.m. today to discuss recreation. We encourage you to participate.

 

Tate Hobdy is the president of the Natchez Adams County Recreation Commission.