City to fund study at ‘beanfield’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 27, 2001

The City of Natchez announced Tuesday it will plow ahead with plans to develop the &uot;beanfield&uot; recreational project.

City Attorney Walter Brown said the city has decided to pay nearly $40,000 for an archeological site study.

The National Park Service, which owns the land adjacent to Natchez High School, demanded the study since the land is believed to have been the site of an early French settlement.

The study will be performed by the Southeast Archeological Center (SEAC), which Brown said was an &uot;arm&uot; of the National Park Service. Archeologists are expected to complete the study in the next three weeks and return their results in 60 to 90 days.

The decision comes after the city attempted to split the cost of the study with Adams County and the Natchez-Adams School District. All three, along with the National Park Service are working to cooperate on the $16 million St. Catherine Creek Recreational Complex.

He said limited archeological studies at the site were made in the 1960s when the National Park Service first acquired the land. From those studies, Brown said he believes only about 10 to 15 acres of the more than 100 at the site will be affected by the historic settlement.

Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said because of SEAC’s tight schedule, the city agreed to move quickly on the project and absorb the cost of the study.

&uot;They had to have a commitment from us,&uot; Smith said. &uot;So it was either do it now or they didn’t have another time on their schedule.&uot;

Brown said funding for the study is anticipated to be coming from the pending sale of recreational land on Liberty Road – due to the next phase of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

&uot;It’s using recreation funds for recreation,&uot; he said.

Brown and Smith stressed that despite the city’s taking the lead on the study, the project will still require cooperation with the county, school system and park service.

&uot;There’s a lot more room out there for financial contributions,&uot; Brown said.

The other immediate hurdle facing the project is the National Park Service’s policy to only lease property for 5-year leases.

&uot;Our discussions have proved fruitful,&uot; Brown said. &uot;We’re working towards an memorandum of agreement between City of Natchez and the park service for leases in excess of five years and renewals. The bottom line is we continue to negotiate and I think we’ll reach and agreement.

&uot;It’s a big, bold step,&uot; he said.

In other business Tuesday, the Natchez Board of Aldermen:

4Agreed to extend the current cable franchise for 90 days while continuing negotiations with Cable One. Brown said the city is still working with Cable One to add a senior citizen’s tier to the cable choices. The option would include only channels two through 13 for a reduced monthly price.

Alderwoman Sue Stedman said many citizens are still expressing their disappointment with the cable company and have suggested the board simply switch to another company.

&uot;It’s just not that simple,&uot; she said. &uot;Another company would have to come in here and buy all of the equipment that Cable One uses – and quite frankly we have not been over run with people trying to do that.&uot;

4Renewed a contract with the Mississippi Development Association to provide office space in the Natchez Visitor Reception center for the State Department of Tourism. The contract terms remain unchanged. The state pays the city $5,000 per month for rent in the building.

4Aldermen Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West and James &uot;Ricky&uot; Gray expressed concerns in the community that Natchez Police use racial profiling.

&uot;I would just like to see everybody treated fairly,&uot; Gray said. &uot;(And) it’s not a black and white thing, because some of the officers are black.&uot;

Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff said the department doesn’t use racial profiling and that the reason more blacks are ticketed than whites is because residents in predominantly black areas of town call the police more often with complaints of trespassing.

&uot;We get a lot of calls from folks who want their neighborhood safe,&uot; Huff said, adding that consequently more traffic citations are issued since officers drive through those areas more often.

&uot;Racial profiling is not a white officer giving a black a ticket or a black officer giving a white citizen a ticket.&uot;

Huff said he would look into the matter and work to eliminate that perception.