Leaders discuss rec commission

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 21, 2010

NATCHEZ — The Chamber of Commerce recreation committee has 27 recommendations for the starting lineup; now it’s up to the coaches.

Chamber representatives presented their ideas for a yet-to-be formed nine-member recreation commission Wednesday night at a meeting with the three government bodies who will make the final call.

“A year ago, the city and county asked the chamber to help form a group to look into the possibility of recreation,” Chamber President Debbie Hudson said. “Since (the November election) we’ve done some other homework that we are bringing you.”

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The Natchez Board of Aldermen, the Adams County Board of Supervisors and the Natchez-Adams School Board will each appoint three members from the community to the recreation commission.

Each board will be given time to review the submitted names before making their appointments. Appointees don’t have to come from the chamber committee’s list.

Tate Hobdy, a chamber representative from the current Leadership Natchez class, presented the board with goals for the commission and set a Feb. 17 deadline for the formation of the group.

“We’ve put together a timeline that we think is aggressive, but doable,” Hobdy said.

After a commission is formed, its members should create and present to the three boards by the end of the year a plan to fund a recreation complex, Hobdy said.

Next, Hobdy said his group would like to see bids coming in early in 2011.

“By November 2011, we should have a fully functional recreational complex (if we follow the timeline),” Hobdy said.

Attorney Walter Brown told the three entities that now is the time to start moving on this project.

“If you anticipate receiving any federal or state assistance, you have to have a plan,” Brown said.

“You can’t just go up to Washington, D.C., and put something on the back of a napkin and have it done.”

Brown said in addition to funding, the commission needs to decide upon an exact location for the complex.

Currently, the chamber’s committee has suggested bean field near Natchez High School.

While the purpose of the meeting was to focus on the nine-member board and a projected timeline for the project, Supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter had a question about the funding of the complex.

Concerned that the recreation project would create a rise in property taxes, Felter asked Brown about the possibility of a sales tax.

“I remember a few months ago you said it would take two years to set up (a sales tax),” Felter told Brown. “It’s the only fair tax, you know that.”

Brown told Felter that to have Adams County residents vote on a sales tax and implement it would push back talks and actions toward a recreation complex back by two years.

“That would take a special election in 2010,” Brown said. “That would put it off so you’d be starting next January (with what we’re doing now).”

It was the special election a few months ago, in which the idea of a recreation complex passed with nearly 80 percent of the vote, that spurred Wednesday’s meeting.