On which projects will area leaders focus in 2009?

Published 12:36 am Sunday, January 4, 2009

Local leaders have a few New Year’s resolutions in mind; and if everything pans out, 2009 could definitely be a year to remember.

Major change is certain for the county-owned hospital in Natchez.

Recreation is on the minds and lips of area politicians, and they say the ballgame is about to begin.

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And Rentech might just be taking applications this year.

Only time will tell what 2009 may bring, but here are a few things to look for:

Adams County

The sale of Natchez Regional Medical Center should occur early in the year, Supervisor Mike Lazarus said. And it should be the biggest news of the coming year, he said.

“It’s the biggest thing the county has ever done,” Lazarus said. “It’s really going to change a lot in the county; it’s going to bring new jobs and work out well for a lot of people.”

More new jobs may come from the opening of the Corrections Corporation of America facility on U.S. 84.

And even more job opportunities are on the horizon from Rentech, Lazarus said.

Rentech spokeswoman Julie Dawoodjee said the company will start the process of hiring soon. They will be utilizing an engineering firm to make plans at the former International Paper site.

She would not confirm an opening date, but said the process is on track.

“We are taking the steps,” she said.

The Economic Development Authority will be hiring a new director this year and outlining new goals, EDA board member Woody Allen said.

“The right person can go a long way and do a lot of good for this county,” Allen said. “It’s an extremely important role. That person can take the city and county and board where we want to go.”

And the city and county are working together on a recreation plan, Lazarus and Mayor Jake Middleton said.

“A small group of about six of us are trying to hammer out a basic recreation plan,” Middleton said. “The recreation complex is moving forward.”

Middleton said four different locations have been currently identified as possible sites.

“We’re trying to figure out what we can put on those locations,” he said.

Currently, he said, private property is involved and communication is ongoing so he is hesitant to divulge all information.

He said his goal for 2009 is to create a firm plan.

“What I would like to see this year is to pick a location, see where we can get some money, get everything in place and get read to have a referendum in place,” he said.

City of Natchez

The city is also going to continue work to tear down dozens of dilapidated houses, Adlerwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said.

They have a list of more than 200 houses that need to go, she said.

The city allocated $50,000 in the budget this year to tear down dilapidated homes.

Though they likely won’t complete the required legal process to tear down a house by the end of the year, Mathis said they want the money to rollover and be there when they want to use it.

She said the city plans to revisit the list of properties to see what other properties may have been added to it, and also where the city stands on demolishing them.

Mathis said the 2009 legislative session could bring a more streamlined process of demolishing homes.

She said the Mississippi Municipal League will be lobbying for a bill to do just that.

Another major to-do on the list of aldermen Ricky Gray and Bob Pollard is a citywide smoking ordinance.

“It’s a personal goal of mine to bring it to the board’s attention before the month of January is over,” Gray said.

He said he’s gathered information from cities that have already enacted smoking ordinances in Mississippi — Ridgeland, Greenville, Hattiesburg and Gulfport.

“Gulfport has a casino,” Gray said. “That was one of my major concerns, because we have a casino, and how are you going to deal with that?”

“I’m not trying to hurt anybody’s business.”

He said the way Gulfport handled it was to allow smoking in the casino at the gaming tables, but not allow it in the restaurant.

He said he’s also gone around the every restaurant and hotel and has found that the majority of restaurants in town have already gone smoke-free.

Restaurant and bar owners will have a chance to voice their opinions on a smoking ordinance during the Chamber of Commerce Tourism Council’s Jan. 12 meeting at 4 p.m.


In Ferriday, the most visible project of 2009 will be the construction of the long-anticipated, $1.3 million downtown pavilion.

“This has been going on for seven or eight years,” Mayor Glen McGlothin said. “It is finally going to come to fruition.”

The architect should have the plans together by the third week in January, and once the state approves the plan construction could begin as early as February, McGlothin said.

The project will be funded through capital outlay dollars.

In conjunction with the pavilion, the town will continue in its recent efforts to buy the old railroad property adjacent to the pavilion site.

“That way, we will own the entire area down there,” McGlothin said.

The town will also begin to revamp its sidewalks downtown to make them all handicapped-accessible.

The entire project will cost between $25,000 and $30,000, and McGlothin said the city already has a grant for the first $25,000 in place.


While Vidalia will continue to work on the new marina during 2009, there will also be a big push for another waterfront project — the port of Vidalia.

When local leaders travel to Washington, D.C., in February, they will talk with the local congressional delegation to see if they can secure additional funds from the federal government’s proposed infrastructure stimulus packages to make it happen, Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said.

“It all hinges on finances,” he said. “We have already got a $1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, and what we are waiting on now is additional funding from various sources.”

The port site will be located near the Vidalia industrial park, but it will have to be located approximately 1,500 to 2,000 feet from its original proposed location to fulfill U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requirements, Copeland said.

The other big project will be the new recreation complex, which will be built on land that is partially held by the Recreation District No. 3 and partially held by the City of Vidalia.

“I think that 2009 will be a good year for recreation as far as Vidalia, district No. 3 and Concordia Parish are concerned,” Copeland said.