No second step set for recreation plan

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 9, 2007

NATCHEZ — A recreation plan approved at the last aldermen meeting has no details yet, local officials said.

But county board of supervisors President Darryl Grennell said he’s interested in hearing more.

The plan, proposed by the Natchez mayor at the Aug. 28 board of aldermen meeting and approved 4-2, suggests spending approximately $15 million to create a recreation complex or programs. The city asked that the county be involved in funding the complex, but had not previously notified the county of the plans.

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“Recreation is something I’ve always been a proponent for,” Grennell said. “I’m excited about it. I’m eager and ready to sit down and talk about it. It would have been nice to have a heads-up, though.”

The first step in the mayor’s plan would be to hire a consulting firm to develop plans, using roughly $100,000 from the public properties fund, which would be reimbursed.

At the aldermen meeting, Mayor Phillip West suggested the city move forward with the plan whether or not the county decided to participate and raise $4 million of the needed funds, as the plan requests.

West came before the county board of supervisors at Monday’s meeting to suggest the two boards meet and discuss the topic.

No meeting date has yet been set, West said, but he hoped to get the boards together in the next two weeks.

No concrete plans as to what would comprise such a complex have been set, either, he said.

Ideas such as a water park, baseball fields and an indoor natatorium have come up before, he said.

“I think that’s basically what most people want, something we could have,” West said.

Consultants would look over the large, in-depth recreation plan compiled several years ago and determine what was feasible and where the complex might be located, West said.

Contrary to what some might think, the mayor’s proposal did not come out of the blue, he said.

“There are other people I’ve been speaking with staff persons identifying resources over the last six, seven, eight months,” West said. “We’ve been pursing resources we could possibly use for some time now.”

Under the proposal, the money would come from the $1 million-per-year rental fee the city would charge Lane Company, a group considering locating a casino under Roth Hill.

West said he was optimistic about the situation, but even if the casino doesn’t locate in Natchez, the city would find other sources, such as bonds, and the recreation project would go on, he said.

Alderman Jake Middleton, chair of the city board’s recreation committee and one of two who voted against the proposal, said he was in favor of recreation but thought that in the event the county decided not to participate, the city should stop there.

“The city can’t carry the bulk of the load — that’s the bottom line,” Middleton said. “They shouldn’t have to. Everybody needs to be involved.”

Alderman Theodore “Bubber” West voted in favor of the proposal.

“The complexion of our city has changed” since the last study was done, West said. “We have more people traveling through, more youth. A whole lot of things have changed.”

The proposal cites April 1, 2008, as the deadline for the city and county to decide on the best course of action.