Extended deadline could mean money for Natchez

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 3, 2009

NATCHEZ — An extended legislative session could spell an extended opportunity for Natchez to get its requested $650,000 appropriation for the city road overlay project.

The $1.3 million overlay of four major arteries in Natchez has only been paid for in half, and city officials have been to Jackson twice to lobby for the remaining funds.

On Wednesday, Mississippi legislators passed a resolution to recess their session until May 4. The session would have otherwise ended within a few days.

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The resolution was voted on to allow time for state officials to decide how to spend the $2.8 billion in stimulus funds the state will be receiving, Rep. Sam Mims said.

“There are so many unanswered questions that we have,” he said. “The worst thing that can happen is that we spend money in the wrong way, and the federal government comes back and says we owe money back.”

The deadline to submit bills and requests for appropriations was also extended.

And Mayor Jake Middleton said he hopes this is a chance for the city’s local delegation to find funds for the overlay project.

During the 2008 legislative session, $1.3 million was written in a letter of intent for Natchez’s overlay project.

The letter of intent accompanied a $9 million appropriation to the Mississippi Development Authority.

MDA was never obligated to give the money to the city.

The city needed to apply for the money, and it never did.

It wasn’t until the project was nearing completion in November that city officials realized the money was not in the bank.

The first half of the payment to the contractor was through $650,000 acquired from the MDA after the city went through the application process.

The remaining $650,000 was paid to the contractor from a $500,000 certificate of deposit from the city’s sale of the pecan factory to condo developers in 2006.

To pay back the CD, the board of aldermen bid out a five-year loan, which was awarded to Britton & Koontz Bank at an aldermen meeting in February.

The $650,000 loan has a 2.95 percent interest rate.

City Clerk Donnie Holloway said the pecan factory CD has now been repaid.

“It’s still in the bank drawing interest,” he said.

But city officials are still hoping to receive state funds.

Middleton said he will do what he has to in order to convey the city’s need for the money to the local delegation.

“I’m probably going to talk with Rep. Mims and some of them by phone and see what they think we should do. I don’t have a problem with going back up there,” he said.

Mims and Sen. Kelvin Butler said, for the most part, all the appropriations in discussion upon return will mostly be for state agencies.

Mims said he doesn’t know how much discussion will take place on smaller appropriations for counties and municipalities.

Butler said he’s going to continue trying to get the money for Natchez.

“We’re going to make every attempt to see if we can get that money,” he said.