City funds committed too soon

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2006

Natchez aldermen jumped the gun Tuesday when they agreed to put up more than a quarter of a million dollars in matching funds for a walking trails project if private funding isn&8217;t secured.

We like the idea of the walking trails &8212; it seems like the kind of new attraction that will give visitors and residents something to do.

And we&8217;re hopeful that the Community Alliance &8212; the groupbacking the idea &8212; can come up with the $300,000 in corporate donations to match a $1.2 million transportation grant for the project, if the city is lucky to receive that funding.

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But the application for that grant is not due until May.

Waiting a few more weeks would have given the public a chance to weigh in on the project &8212; and the spending of public money to help match it.

City officials have proposed using funds from either the city&8217;s capital improvements fund &8212; usually used to match Federal Aid Urban road funds &8212; or the proceeds from selling the Natchez pecan factory site.

We&8217;d rather the city not touch money that is usually designated for roads, especially in a community that desperately needs improvements to its streets.

We&8217;re not opposed to the trails project, but the city should have given the public an opportunity to weigh in on how such a large amount of money would be spent.