Board of aldermen approve $15M recreation project

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2007

NATCHEZ — The mayor and board of aldermen are ready to spend $15 million on recreation in Natchez.

Mayor Phillip West proposed a plan to build a comprehensive health, wellness and recreational complex at Tuesday’s meeting.

In the first step, the city would authorize up to $100,000 from the public properties fund to hire a consulting firm to develop plans.

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The city has approximately $268,000 in the public properties fund, Donnie Holloway said.

West said the money would be reimbursed once rent money from the proposed Lane Company casino started business.

“This is probably the best time from a financial perspective,” West said.

West said it was important for the city to stop just talking about recreation and do something.

All the aldermen agreed they needed recreation, but David Massey and Recreation Commission Chair Jake Middleton disagreed with West how to go about it.

Under West’s proposal, the county would be asked to raise $4 million, while the city would attempt to raise $8 million.

Massey said he wouldn’t vote for the proposal unless the county was required to contribute half the funds, including half the $100,000 seed money.

“We’ve always worked hard to provide recreation for the city and the county,” Massey said. “It’s time for the county to put up half.”

Massey also said there were other priorities in the city for which he would like to see the money used. He also wanted to wait until the city finished its budget process.

Middleton said he wanted the board to review the work done several years ago when the city, county and school board joined forces to construct a recreation complex.

When the plants left, the plan fell apart, but the research was still valid, Middleton said.

West said he wanted the city to move forward whether or not the county pledged money to the project this time.

“I don’t think we should be stunted in moving forward for our children, youth and families,” West said.