Fine arts center land deal could be completed today

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 29, 2000

Lawyers are laying the groundwork — literally — for a collegiate fine arts center in Natchez. Attorneys for the City of Natchez and Adams County are scheduled today to broker a deal that would add just more than 11 acres to the campus of Copiah-Lincoln Community College and Alcorn State University.

On Tuesday, Natchez aldermen approved the transfer of the land to the colleges.

Co-Lin has allocated about $500,000 for the land, said college spokesman Mark LaFrancis, who did not know the exact price of the land.

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State lawmakers already have approved legislation to allow Co-Lin and Alcorn to own and operate the fine arts facility jointly, an agreement unprecedented for higher education institutions in Mississippi.

But the schools may face an uphill battle for funding for the estimated $10 million facility from a Legislature which Tuesday introduced a no-frills proposed budget for next year.

&uot;If the Legislature can be convinced in these tight times of the importance (of the project to economic development) then we have a chance,&uot; LaFrancis said. &uot;Southwest Mississippi’s economic development is quite sluggish, with no great prospect for brand-new jobs.&uot;

But Alcorn and Co-Lin, LaFrancis said, are &uot;growth industries,&uot; capable of introducing high-paying jobs in the area.

The city and county have been negotiating the land deal because Co-Lin is funded in part by both governments.

But no money for the project will come from either the city or county budget.

Earlier this year, participants in the deal had feared it would wind up in court, but LaFrancis said the Seyfarth family agreed to the price for the sale of the land.