Proposed federal courthouse work at $4.8 million

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 19, 2001

NATCHEZ – Renovating Memorial Hall for use as a federal courthouse will cost about $4.8 million, according to the most recent estimates, City Attorney Walter Brown said Wednesday.

As recently as late summer, city officials had put the estimated cost of renovating the historic building at just $4 million.

But the cost of design fees, property acquisition and demolition was not included in the original estimate. The $4.8 million figure includes those costs, Brown said.

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Design fees also ended up costing more than expected, but the exact cost of acquiring Memorial Hall – and a building next door, which will function as a sallyport area – is still being negotiated, he added.

&uot;That ($4 million estimate) was just construction,&uot; Brown said. But he said that city and county officials involved with the project knew that the total cost could be up to $5 million.

&uot;We knew (the cost estimate) would be somewhat more&uot; than $4 million, said Sammy Cauthen, president of the Adams County Board of Supervisors. &uot;We just didn’t know how much more.&uot;

Funding for the project includes $1.8 million from the General Services Administration, $1 million from the U.S. Marshals Service and $400,000 from the state Department of Archives and History.

As it now stands, the City of Natchez and Adams County will split the remaining $1.6 million cost 50-50, with the money to come from the issuance of urban renewal bonds.

Actually, the city and county have each agreed to issue up to $1 million in urban renewal bonds for the project, for a total of $2 million.

But that does not mean the city and county have to issue that full amount of bonds, Cauthen said. &uot;It’s not expected to cost near that much,&uot; he said. &uot;And we may get some more funds to take care of some of that cost.&uot;

Cauthen was referring to the fact that in February, he, Brown and Natchez Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith plan to travel to Washington, D.C., to speak to the area’s congressional delegation.

And one of the main topics they plan to discuss with U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) is the possibility of including up to $750,000 in the federal government’s fiscal 2003 budget for the renovation.

That money could come from the GSA, the Marshals Service, downtown revitalization funds, the Office of the Courts or other sources. &uot;That’s what we have to ask our delegation about,&uot; Brown said.

Still, the urban renewal bonds would be sold before additional funds would materialize.

Local officials plan to sell the bonds in late February after publishing a notice of intent to sell bonds in January. The city and county could have the bond proceeds by early March, Brown said.