County, city to meet, discuss EDA

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 19, 2009

NATCHEZ — Since January, county and city officials have been calling for a joint meeting to hash out issues with the Natchez-Adams Economic Development Authority.

That meeting could be as early as next Thursday.

Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton said the meeting came about when he called Henry Watts, president of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, to inquire about a meeting Watts previously said he wanted to schedule to discuss the reallocation of EDA funding.

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Middleton said when he called Watts to inquire about the meeting, Watts told him funding had been reallocated, and Thursday was named as the tentative meeting date.

Middleton said he sees the meeting as an opportunity for the supervisors, aldermen and EDA board to come to a mutual understanding on what types of changes need to be made at the EDA.

“Let’s find out what the problem is,” he said. “And then we can work on it.”

Numerous calls to Watts were unreturned Wednesday.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus said he’d like to see the EDA board run more efficiently and have more members from the business community involved.

“It needs to be run better,” he said.

Supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter said he’d like to see a revamped EDA with all new members.

Ideally, Felter said, the board would be made of representatives from the local electricity providers, gas providers, school district, water company and the president of the county and city board and one member of each board.

“That takes care of everything,” he said.

EDA Chairman Woody Allen said he’s looking forward to a meeting between the boards.

“We’re very willing to meet,” he said.

Allen said he’ll use the meeting to present an economic development study recently given to the EDA board.

The study was done by a New York-based consulting firm and outlines plans to develop economic growth in Adams County.

And even while the three boards plan to meet to discuss ways to repair the EDA, and funding to the EDA has been returned, the EDA board is not ready to resume its search for an executive director.

The EDA was in the process of beginning a search for a new director when the supervisors slashed its budget.

“I don’t see how we can (hire a new director) under the premise that it’ll go through until August,” he said.

Part of the motion that returned the EDA’s funding also called for the board to meet again in August to decide if they’ll continue funding the EDA.

Allen said it won’t be possible to hire a director if there’s a possibility the funding will be cut again.

“They’re not going to come here to work on a yearly basis,” he said.