City moves closer a step closer to bringing federal courthouse

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2001

With a quick, unanimous vote Tuesday night, aldermen moved a project to bring a $4 million federal courthouse to Natchez a step closer to reality.

The board approved an urban renewal plan that will help fund the purchase and initial site preparation of Memorial Hall on Pearl Street.

The decision will ultimately mean the City will invest $500,000 in urban renewal bonds into the project, said City Attorney Walter Brown.

Adams County is expected to do the same and make up the other half of the estimated $1 million needed for the initial phase of the project.

The County Board of Supervisors is expected to hold a public hearing on the matter on Aug. 20.

&uot;What we’ll do after this is, once the county adopts a similar plan, we’ll enter into an agreement with the county,&uot; Brown said. &uot;Then we’ll develop a plan with the General Services Administration and the U.S. Marshal’s Service.

&uot;Once we’ve issued the bonds, then we’ll go through the process, and hopefully by the end of the year, start the project.&uot;

The Historic Natchez Foundation currently owns Memorial Hall which has been everything from a school to an opera house, but currently sits vacant.

The $1 million will help &uot;shell out&uot; the building, Brown said. This will essentially clean up the building and get it in order so the federal government can furnish the inside layout as they see fit, Brown said.

Before the meeting, the aldermen held a short public hearing on the matter in which several people expressed approval of the project.

&uot;Bringing a federal court downtown is going to help tremendously,&uot; said Tammi Mullins, Natchez Downtown Development Association director.

Alderwoman Sue Stedman echoed Mullins’ sentiment.

&uot;I think the federal courthouse is a very important and impressive project for a city of our size,&uot; she said. &uot;Not only because of the jobs that will be incurred by the addition of this facility, but by the people who travel here for court. It’s going to take a little money on our part, but I think it will be dollars well-spent.&uot;

Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said the project was an investment.

&uot;A lot of times, we in city government are faced with making expenditures that I think have to be considered as down payments on the future,&uot; he said. &uot;(They) involve a certain amount of risk, and I certainly think this is one of those decisions. (But) eight, 10, 12, 15 years down the road, I think this thing will have some benefit.&uot;