City hosts tour of downtown courthouse site

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 27, 2000

Natchez officials had their &uot;first official meeting&uot; with architects and designers of a proposed downtown federal courthouse Tuesday.

The meeting marked one of the last projects for Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown, who leaves office Thursday.

Brown, City Engineer David Gardner, representatives from the Historic Natchez Foundation, federal architects and members of the U.S. Marshal Service toured the proposed location of a federal courthouse Tuesday. The tour marked the &uot;first official meeting&uot; with architects and designers in charge of the renovation work for the courthouse, Brown said.

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&uot;Our mission today was to acquaint all the players with the property,&uot; Brown said.

Memorial Hall, located on Pearl Street, has long been discussed as a proposed location for the courthouse. The 150-year-old building is currently being leased by the Historic Natchez Foundation.

All key &uot;players&uot; were present at the meeting, except a representative from the General Services Administration. The GSA oversees contracting for the U.S. government.

Brown said all who toured the location Tuesday seemed &uot;very enthusiastic&uot; about housing the courthouse at the hall. &uot;It’s a given that this is the building of choice,&uot; Brown said.

Mimi Miller of the Historic Natchez Foundation said she was pleased with the response of the U.S. marshals, who she said expressed approval of the building’s proximity to the Adams County Jail as well as the vehicular access to the rear of the building. Both attributes deal with security, the marshals’ top concern. &uot;All in all, we feel it was a really positive meeting,&uot; Miller said.

The plan to bring a federal courthouse to Natchez has been a key project in Brown’s administration. While U.S. law allowed federal court to be held in the city, no legislation was in place for the allocation of funds to pay for a separate facility. Federal court, presided over by Judge David Bramlette, is currently held in the Adams County Courthouse.

Lobbying by Brown and other city representatives led Congress to pass a bill last November that allows Bramlette to request federal funding.

The architects and designers will now begin gathering information and make preliminary plans and drawings which they will present to the GSA.

Approval on several levels is required before renovation work may begin, but Brown said he is positive about the progress.

&uot;I was particularly pleased, with this being my last week in office, to see this move forward,&uot; he said.

On Monday, Brown met with representatives from a potential gaming company interested in further developing Natchez Under-the-Hill, specifically the Roth Hill site. Negotiations with the company have been under way since last fall, and Brown said &uot;very good progress&uot; was made in Monday’s meeting.

&uot;They are committed to the program,&uot; Brown said. City Attorney Walter Brown and Ward 3 Alderman and Chairman of City Properties Sue Stedman will soon be presenting the general agreement to the mayor and board of aldermen for their approval, Brown said.