Who will pay for residents to play?

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 4, 2001

Recreation is a top priority among many Natchez families; funding new facilities and programs will be the challenge, said Alderwoman Sue Stedman.

Her constituents favor additional recreation projects, she said, but they are concerned about paying for those projects.

&uot;The community needs a large recreational facility … and it would be a money maker for our town, bringing in people from outside the city,&uot; said Stedman, who represents Ward 3. Cost estimates for the project designed for the beanfield area have topped $15 million, Stedman noted.

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The area, informally dubbed the &uot;beanfield&uot; area near Natchez High School had been studied and plans drawn for a complex on it, prior to notification by the National Park Service that the site was historically important and would require archaeological surveying before earth could be disturbed there.

Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West said the Board of Aldermen has not discussed formally the possibility of a bond issue but does not need to do so, because a bond issue is the only option for funding major recreation projects.

&uot;Eventually if we’re going to do a major recreation program, (a bond issue)&160;will have to be done,&uot; said West, who represents Ward 4.

&uot;If we want recreation, this is the only way to find the funds for it. … Everybody wants recreation, but I&160;don’t think most people know the costs of recreation,&uot; he said.

Walter Brown, city attorney, said archaeological work will be done at the beanfield site this summer. &uot;The next step is to do the lease and determine the scope of the project,&uot; he said. &uot;(The dollar figure of the bond issue) is going to be driven by what we can afford, … but it will be several million dollars.&uot;

Both West and Alderman Jake Middleton of Ward 5 said the City of Natchez and Adams County should first work together to establish a joint recreation program.

&uot;What I want to do is to have an interlocal city-county recreation agreement first, then get together how we’re going to get the money, then get the signatures to get it on the ballot, possibly in the fall,&uot; Middleton said.

That &uot;it&uot; could refer to a bond issue or an increase or restructuring of tax millage, Middleton said.

Alderman James &uot;Ricky&uot; Gray of Ward 2 said he believes the community will support a bond issue for the proposed recreational facilities. &uot;There’s no recreation for the kids,&uot; he said. &uot;We could sell the community on it.&uot;

Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said it is premature to discuss the possibility of a bond issue, especially given doubts about the future of a recreational complex at the beanfield.

&uot;How much property we could end up with and what we could place on that will determine what kind of money we’re talking about,&uot;&160;Smith said.