City isn’t playing fair with county

Published 1:09 am Sunday, September 2, 2007

Last week as county voters were worrying over county elections, Natchez Mayor Phillip West pulled a rather ugly rabbit out of his hat.

West produced the furry little animal that was dressed as a $15 million recreation project, seemingly out of the blue.

No sooner than the furry friend appeared, a few of the aldermen took the little rabbit and shoved its rear end into the faces of members of the Adams County Board of Supervisors.

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Supervisors likely were not amused.

If you missed West’s magic show, let’s recap a bit.

On the day of a large county runoff election West, who apparently didn’t want to be overshadowed by the Binkey Vines’ show, decided it was time to announce a sweeping $15 million recreation facility.

But a few problems were apparent in the plan however: what and where to build and who will pay for it.

The first parts are easy, West and a majority of the aldermen said: We’ll just hire a consultant to tell us what we need to build. The consultant should only cost approximately $100,000, give or take a few pieces of lettuce.

Thank God for consultants. How else could we manage to get anything done in this town without them?

Consultants and grants are the politicians’ friends. Consultants allow you freedom from ever having to take the blame for anything.

Seriously, Mr. Mayor and the aldermen, let’s not waste $100,000 — or even $10 — on a consultant.

Taxpayers already shelled out their hard-earned lettuce a few years ago for a recreation study that looked at locating a state-of-the-art facility near Natchez High School at the site affectionately known as the “bean field.”

Fortunately, Alderman Jake Middleton — perhaps the only one on the board using his noggin on this issue — remembers the “bean field study” and wants the city to review it before hiring an outside consultant.

Gee, that makes sense to me, doesn’t it?

Please, let’s nix the consultant idea outright.

It’s ridiculous.

The second problem the city faces is how to pay for the $15 million facility.

Easy, West and Alderman David Massey decided at the meeting — make the county pay their fair share.

Now logically this makes a lot of sense. County residents currently use city facilities and city residents pay county taxes, so both usage and taxes intertwine on this deal.

But politically, the city’s move is disrespectful.

Perhaps few people realized this, but supervisors say they didn’t know a thing about the plan until they read it in the newspaper.

That’s disrespectful and, frankly a bit rude, too.

The city has publicly thrown down the gauntlet to the county supervisors. With no involvement up until this point, the county is supposed to come up with $4 to $7.5 million for its share.

If they do that, they’re allowing the city leaders to push them around politically.

If they refuse, they can be easy targets as being “against recreation.”

Beyond the city’s plan to have the county fund up to half of the plan, the city’s plan calls for an as-yet-unsigned casino deal to foot the bill for the remainder.

For years and years, we’ve talked about recreation, and we’ve done absolutely nothing.

Perhaps we haven’t done anything because we’re intent on building the Taj Mahal of recreation.

All we need at this point is a start. We can grow it as the economy improves.

We need recreation facilities and we need nice ones. But what we need more than anything is to work together like adults and get something reasonable done.

A consultant and another study aren’t going to get us any closer to a quality recreation project. We’d be better off buying a rabbit’s foot and hoping for a miracle.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or