Aldermen OK convention center bids

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 21, 2000

After years of dreaming, months of planning and weeks of negotiations, the City of Natchez is about three weeks away from the start of construction on a downtown convention center. Aldermen approved $7.83 million in bids from various contractors Tuesday for the actual convention center building.

&uot;This has been about a 10-year project,&uot; said city attorney Walter Brown. &uot;A lot of folks have participated in it over the years. We were very careful to bring this project online in a responsible way.

&uot;This is a project that is going to make a great difference for the citizens of Natchez and visitors to Natchez.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

Construction is likely to begin the second week of December, putting completion in early 2002.

Architects and the construction management company, Carothers, have been in negotiations to bring construction bids in line with the budget for the project. Bids taken in October were higher than expected.

The new bid package covers general works, roofing, glass, food service equipment, elevators, fire protection and electrical work, along with finishes and painting.

It does not include certain alternate costs, such as site curbs and walks and audiovisual and security systems. Architect Johnny Waycaster said the money for those items is available, so they will be rebid later.

The city originally borrowed $12 million in bond funding for the convention center and community center and renovation of the city auditorium. The community center was completed for about $500,000, and the auditorium renovations, which were nearly $1 million, are almost finished.

&uot;The delays in getting to this point were necessary to allow us to negotiate the absolute best price we could,&uot; Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said. &uot;We all feel like there is a certain investment that we need to take responsibility for.&uot;

A downtown convention center has been in the city’s long-range vision for at least the past decade and finally became a tangible reality when aldermen borrowed the money for the project — including the auditorium and community center — from the Mississippi Development Bank nearly a year ago.

Schematic design plans for the three-story convention center were approved in February.

The building is designed to blend with downtown Natchez’s historic character.

The ground-breaking for the convention center is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12.

On that day, aldermen will also take a final walk-through of the renovated auditorium, which will host its first event — a holiday cotillion — Dec. 9.