Co-Lin, Alcorn acquire land for fine arts center

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 7, 2000

A land transfer from the City of Natchez and Adams County to Copiah-Lincoln Community College Thursday clears the way for the community college and Alcorn State University to pursue joint plans to build a fine arts center at the Natchez campus.

After almost two years of negotiations with property owners and overcoming legal hurdles, representatives of the city, county and the two colleges met at City Council Chambers to hand over the deed for more than 14 acres adjacent to the Natchez campus of the two schools.

&uot;It’s a Christmas present to the people of Southwest Mississippi. We’re all winners in this,&uot; City Attorney Walter Brown said.

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The city and county have acted as purchasing agents on behalf of the college in the transaction. Last week, they finalized a purchase agreement with the local Seyfarth family, who owned the land.

&uot;It’s been a long time in trying to achieve this day when we actually get the property,&uot; said Dr. Howell C. Garner, Co-Lin president.

One legal hurdle involved an unused pipeline belonging to a Texas oil company that intersected the property. But once the company realized the property was to be used for higher education, they agreed to move it, Brown said.

Other than the pipeline, County Attorney Marion Smith said the transaction was no more difficult than any other of such size.

&uot;There was a difference in value between what the land owners thought the property was worth and what we thought it was worth, but we worked that out through good faith negotiations,&uot; Smith said.

Garner said the transaction is the first step in a joint project between Alcorn and Co-Lin that will be a first of its kind in the state.

&uot;This has never been done in the state of Mississippi,&uot; he said. &uot;There are several instances where they share facilities and programs, where they have common programs, but never before have they begun at the beginning to do it from scratch.&uot;

Alcorn President Dr. Clinton Bristow called the project &uot;innovative.&uot; He emphasized the fine arts center will not only benefit students at the Natchez campus, but the entire community.

&uot;This is one of the best examples of a community college and a four-year university working together,&uot; Bristow said. &uot;It is a model not only here in the state of Mississippi, but also in the United States.&uot;

The colleges will now continue to lobby the state Legislature for funding for the estimated $10 million cost of the fine arts center. About $100,000 has already been allocated toward engineering and preliminary planning.

Alcorn also has plans to use part of the 14 acres to construct a $9.8 million business school to house junior and senior level business classes as well as the newly-instituted business administration graduate program.

Natchez campus Dean Ronnie Nettles said he was pleased to see the day of the transaction finally arrive. &uot;It’s just another step in the right direction,&uot; he said.

Every expansion of the Natchez campus offers local students and residents more choices when it comes to higher learning, he said.