No EDA meeting planned

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 17, 2009

CORRECTION: The amount of money allocated for industrial recruitment travel was incorrectly stated. The correct amount for travel is $15,000. The story has been corrected below.

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors and the Natchez Board of Aldermen will meet today — but not in the same room.

Representatives from the two boards had discussed having a second joint meeting to discuss Economic Development Authority funding this week, but no such meeting has been scheduled.

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It’s been more than a week since a representative from the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office advised the supervisors to continue funding the EDA. The supervisors voted in January to suspend their EDA funding for the rest of the budget year.

Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton said he has not spoken with Watts about the meeting since Feb. 5, when the opinion came in.

Supervisors president Henry Watts said he was concerned his comments would be distorted by The Democrat and refused to discuss when the meeting would be scheduled.

Supervisors Darryl Grennell and Mike Lazarus said they had not seen an agenda for today’s meeting, and did not know if the matter would be discussed.

“I have no idea,” Grennell said.

Citing a lack of economic development, the supervisors voted to withhold their portion of funding, $175,000, from the EDA budget at their board meeting in January.

EDA Chairman Woody Allen said since that decision was made the EDA has not stopped operating, but it has stopped it’s search for a new director.

Former EDA Director Jeff Rowell left his post in December to pursue another opportunity.

Allen said with $175,000 missing from the budget, the EDA cannot afford to hire a new director.

The EDA operates with a yearly budget of $275,000 funded by the county’s contribution and $100,000 from the City of Natchez.

Of that budget the EDA’s largest expenditure, $143,000, funds salaries.

Allen said while the EDA does have more than $260,000 in savings, that money won’t be used to hire another director.

“We’re operating under the premises of the original bill,” he said.

And the law approved by the state legislature that established the EDA calls for joint funding from the city and county.

Allen said the EDA has had a savings account for approximately seven years. The money in the account is the director’s salary, when no director was employed.

The EDA’s annual budget is as follows:

$2,500 for community renewal

$1,000 for advertising and promotions

$1,000 for education and training

$1,000 for seminars and association memberships

$1,000 for community development

$15,000 for industrial recruitment travel

$500 for general travel

$15,000 for advertisement to entice retirees to Natchez (through the Natchez Retiree Partnership)

$6,868 for Southwest Mississippi Development Corp.

$932 for incidentals

$8,700 for office rental at the Natchez Convention Center

$4,000 for office supplies

$400 for content insurance

$3,600 for personal reimbursement

$1,250 for postage

$850 for Internet

$2,000 for equipment and software

$12,500 for payroll taxes

$350 for staff bond

$6,500 for accounting services

$1,400 reference materials

$143,000 salaries ($80,000 for the director; $63,000 for two other employees)

$4,000 to the Mississippi Employment Securities Commission

$20,000 to the Public Employees Retirement System

$14,000 for group insurance

$7,250 for telephone service.