City to seek legislation to transfer Forks land

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 13, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; The Forks of the Road project and discussion of cost-cutting and economic development took up the bulk of the Board of Aldermen’s meeting time Tuesday.

There, aldermen voted to submit local and private legislation to allow the city to transfer the Forks of the Road property to the National Park Service.

Concerned citizens and local governments have pushed for the National Park Service to erect an interpretive center on the property at Liberty Road and St. Catherine Street, the site of a 19th-century slave market.

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The site would be part of the Natchez National Historical Park, which now includes the antebellum house Melrose, Fort Rosalie and the William Johnson House.

Last month, the city bought 0.25 acres at the site for $92,000. The state Board of Archives then voted to pay the city $115,000 in grant funds for the property and to erect some type of recognition at the site.

Also in Tuesday morning’s meeting, the board passed a resolution to refinance more than $2 million in debt to take advantage of lower interest rates, saving the city an estimated $120,000, said Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith.

The sale of refinancing bonds should be complete by March 27, said City Attorney Walter Brown.

In addition to the refinancing, Smith detailed several more of the city’s cost-cutting measures &045; especially important, he said, given economic woes such as IP’s closing announcement.

Refinancing existing debt, contracting with energy-saving consultants Johnson Controls, and cutting the number of employees and city vehicles, Smith said.

Department heads have also been diligent about cutting down on the purchase of supplies and taking other cost-cutting steps, Smith said.

&uot;We’ve held costs down as best we could,&uot; he said. Meanwhile, he added, the city’s fiscal year is one-third complete &045; and 32 percent of its projected sales tax revenues for the year have been collected.

In addition, Alderman and Mayor Pro-Tem David Massey said he reviewed the city’s most recent claims docket and determined that the city is spending its money at home when possible.

From that review, he said, he determined that of more than $771,000 in expenditures, only $1,174 were for purchases that could have been made inside the city and weren’t. &uot;That’s outstanding,&uot; Massey said.

In addition, Smith reported on a meeting held Monday with U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Third District, and Delta Regional Authority Executive Director Pete Johnson regarding possible assistance for International Paper’s Natchez mill.

Without giving specifics, Smith said the two discussed possible assistance that would be of interest to companies looking at operating the mill once IP has left.

&uot;The mill’s management will now pass that information along to potential buyers,&uot; Smith said.