Convention center behind schedule

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 26, 2001

Rain and cold weather earlier this year put construction of the downtown convention center at least two weeks behind schedule.

City Engineer David Gardner said crews lost several days of work because of the cold, wet weather in January and February. The construction contract has been adjusted to reflect the lost work.

But the most difficult part of construction is over, Gardner said. Last week, crews finished laying the underground plumbing and electrical systems and poured a large portion of the center’s concrete foundation.

As soon as steel beams needed for the frame of the center arrive, Gardner said the aldermen will begin to see the building take shape.

&uot;We’re through with the hardest part,&uot; he said. &uot;You’re going to begin to see a lot of progress out there.&uot;

Gardner said the convention center is still on schedule to be &uot;substantially complete&uot; by February 2002. The first convention is booked for April 2002.

In other business, the board on Tuesday:

4Named Woody Allen to a one-year term and James West to a five-year term on the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority.

The unanimous vote ratified the board of aldermen’s selection of the men in December. City Attorney Walter Brown said the vote was necessary under the restructuring of the EDA board, which was finalized with the governor’s signature of House bill 1711 earlier this month.

Two other local and private bills sponsored by the city involving long-term leases were also signed by the governor.

4Voted to accept a $200,000 grant awarded to the City of Natchez in March by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for preservation of the Forks of the Road site.

The city applied for $299,000 with no requirement for matching funds from Archives and History, but received only $200,000 with conditions that the city pay for appraisals, title work, surveys, legal fees and environmental certification.

4Discussed the city’s long-term plans for road repair during finance committee meeting. Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux said she continues to get complaints from constituents about the condition of the streets, particularly Reynolds Street and the Beverly Hills area.

&uot;I need some direction as to how we’re going to go about fixing those streets, because we’ve got some that are really in bad condition,&uot; Arceneaux said.

At the suggestion of Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith, the aldermen agreed to compile a list of the streets within their wards that are in the greatest need of repair.

4Heard from Ward 3 Alderwoman Sue Stedman who said the public properties committee has been working behind the scenes lately, but because of the sensitive nature of real estate negotiations, she cannot comment on the meetings at this time.

4Heard from Ward 2 Alderman James &uot;Ricky&uot; Gray who asked about the progress of renaming Natchez Middle School in honor of long-time educator, the late Robert E. Lewis.

The aldermen passed a resolution in February to rename the school and Attorney&160;Brown said the resolution was forwarded to the Adams County Board of Supervisors which will also have to approve the measure before presenting it to the Natchez-Adams School District.

4Accepted sale of city-owned property known as the &uot;Club de Lis&uot; property to Zion Chapel&160;A.M.E. Church for the appraisal price of $10,750.

4Recognized the Natchez High School Choir and Eagle Scout Jonathan Halley, Troop 170, as recipients of P.R.O.U.D. awards.

The NHS choir recently received outstanding ratings at the New York Festival of Music and also took home superior and excellent ratings from the Mississippi Choral Festival earlier this month.

Halley, who has achieved the highest rank of the Boy Scout program, built a 140-foot boardwalk entrance to the Duncan Park Nature/Mountain Bike Trail last summer.

4Heard from Tourism Director Walter Tipton who presented the publicity report for the month of April.

He said Natchez was featured in several publications, totalling more than 9 million circulation, and has recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Southern Living and Woman’s Day magazine.

Gray asked Tipton about the rental fee and insurance deposit for the Natchez Community Center.

Tipton said the rental fee is $500 per event and liability coverage varies depending on the type of event and whether alcohol is served.

4Agreed to apply for a $10,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Public Safety for the Natchez Police Department to address child passenger safety and occupant protection.

Police Chief Willie Huff said the grant does not require a local match.

4Heard from Ward 6 Alderman and recreation chairman Jake Middleton who said the recreation committee is preparing ball fields for the city’s four leagues. He also said the Spraygrounds at North Natchez Park is nearly complete and should open in mid-May.