Aldermen speed repairs to Martin roof

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 6, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; The Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center’s rainy days could soon be over, with help from a Wednesday vote by the Board of Aldermen.

In a special meeting, aldermen voted to allow contractor Cornell Malone to proceed with repairing remaining sections of the former school’s leaky roof.

The goal is to get the roof repaired and rainwater and ceiling debris cleared from the building’s floors by the time it is used to house the Natchez Opera Festival, which is set for May.

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&uot;There is mold and mildew in there now,&uot; said Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith.

&uot;If we don’t do something, it could put the Opera Festival in jeopardy.&uot;

In November, the portions of the roof above the building’s auditorium and air conditioning units &045; and the old gym area that houses Natchez Gymnastics &045; were reroofed using almost $91,000.

That money came from a $75,000 grant the Opera Festival received from the Mississippi Arts Commission and $50,000 in city funds.

That money, a $100,000 state History and Archives grant and $25,000 in additional city matching funds should be almost enough to finish the rest of the roof and repair exterior masonry, city officials have said.

The project does not have to be rebid or declared an emergency under state law because the first Cornell Malone roofing contract has not yet been closed out.

The &uot;phase two&uot; roof and masonry work would be an extension of that contract. Cornell Malone included two alternate bids that almost covered what will be included in phase two.

The builder is increasing his price by $4,314 due to the cost of materials, but could be ways to cut costs, said architect Johnny Waycaster.

One option, taking out the proposed slope of the roof, would save $13,000, but Waycaster didn’t recommend it.

&uot;I encourage (aldermen) not to eliminate that slope with the roof problems with have in this city,&uot; Ward 3 Alderwoman Sue Stedman said.

In other business, aldermen voted sell bonds to refinance $2.185 million in debt still left from 1993, when the city last refinanced of $3.83 million of street improvement bonds.

The refinancing, which will allow the city to take advantage of a lower interest rate, will save the city $145,000 over the next seven years &045; up from the $65,000 savings the city’s bond counsel estimated last August.

Interest rates locked in with Morgan Keegan, the bonds’ underwriter, will range from 2 to 3.5 percent.

As of last August, the city could only expect a rate of 5 to 5.3 percent.

That’s after fees are paid to bond counsel Sam Keyes, financial advisor Demery Grubbs, Morgan Keegan and City Attorney Walter Brown.

Aldermen actually voted in August to refinance the debt but waited to sell the bonds until they could lock in the lowest interest rate possible.