City forced to cut back on rec programs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; The city’s Recreation Department will have to make some deep cuts &045; including maintenance and some children’s programs &045; to offset a loss of more than $106,000 in golf, tennis and park user fees.

Even if those cuts are made, saving about $36,000, the department will still have to make $39,145 more in cuts somewhere.

That’s taking into account a starting balance of $21,188 for this fiscal year and the projected carrying over of $10,000 in expenses to the next fiscal year.

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&uot;This is the worse case of user fee collection (shortfalls) I’ve experienced in my 10 years here,&uot; said Recreation Director Ralph Tedder.

Cuts the department has already determined will happen include the elimination of the North Natchez Day Camp summer program and the Concord Avenue playground program.

&uot;We’ll just have to refer them to the Boys & Girls Club,&uot; Tedder said. That organization, however, always experiences a shortage of volunteers with the amount of members it has.

Cuts also include the elimination of five maintenance positions.

Those will include a full-time park maintenance positions and two seasonal ballfield positions and two seasonal golf maintenance positions.

The reasons for the department’s financial crunch are threefold, Tedder said: rain that dampened golf play for five months earlier this year, a poor economy and damage to Duncan Park’s golf course.

The damage was apparently caused by the mixing of herbicide into chemicals designed to boost the condition of the course’s greens, Tedder said.

Since maintenance personnel were using chemicals held over from last year, someone could have tampered with them at any time during a several-month period.

At times, the storage shed was unlocked; and other times, it was broken into, Tedder said.

As a result of the mixing, the newest part of the greens is sandy and poor.

&uot;By the time they come back, Š it’ll be so hot&uot; that golf play will taper off anyway, making it unlikely that the Recreation Department can recoup the lost revenues, Tedder said, adding that golf is the department’s money maker.

In all, golf user fees already fell short by $60,253 from October through May, with $32,000 more in shortfalls projects through September, the end of the fiscal year.

Tennis and park user fees have fallen short by $7,780, with another $6,300 projected.

Tedder’s challenge is now to find $39,145 more in cuts. Until then, he said, &uot;Just play more golf.&uot;