Builders host Smith at meeting

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 4, 2002

Friday, January 04, 2002

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ – The city has more money in the bank and is working

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on a number of projects to boost quality of life and economic

development, Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith told homebuilders

at a Thursday night meeting.

But he added that the city still faces many challenges, namely

annexation and maintaining the level of services within the existing

city limits.

&uot;We’ve got more money in the bank than we did&uot; in

the year 2000, Smith told the Homebuilders Association of Natchez

at its monthly meeting.

Planning and, in some cases, construction began on a number

of projects in 2001 and will continue this year, including the

following projects:

4The St. Catherine Creek Recreational Complex.

4The Natchez Convention Center. The almost $9 million center

will be built by March, in time for the first events to be held

there in early April.

4Renovation of Memorial Hall as a federal courthouse, which

is set to start as soon as early summer and be finished by October


That project has the potential to bring in up to 35 federal

jobs and many visitors and refurbishes a historic building, he


4Rebuilding of a portion of Government Fleet Road leading to

the port area, which should begin in March.

4Rebuilding of Roth’s Hill Road, including installation of

utility lines and other infrastructure needed to attract businesses

to the riverfront site.

4The Natchez Trace extension, which is still in the land acquisition

and planning stages, according to National Park Service officials.

He also said &uot;two or three very good (industrial) prospects&uot;

are considering locating in the area.

Other projects completed in 2001 included bluff stabilization,

renovations at the Natchez Senior Citizen Multipurpose Center

and renovation of Carpenter No. 1 School, Smith said.

On the challenge side, mentioned street and drainage problems.

He also mentioned the annexation issue – namely, the city’s

hiring on consultant Joseph Lusteck to study the feasibility of

annexing county land.

&uot;I’ve not formed an opinion on annexation – I’m taking

a wait-and-see attitude,&uot; Smith said.

He added that the consultant’s report will tell the city how

much it will cost to annex land and how much it will get in taxes

in return.

If the city can’t justify the cost, Smith said he will not

be for annexation. Still, he said, &uot;we’re not trying to increase

tax revenue or make a tax grab. We’re looking at ways our town

can progress and grow.&uot;

In a question-and-answer session, members asked about industrial

prospects, public works projects and overregulation.