Natchez leaders to lobby in D.C.

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, January 27, 2010

NATCHEZ — City of Natchez officials will travel to Washington, D.C., next month in hopes of strengthening partnerships with federal legislators while lobbying for three specific projects.

Mayor Jake Middleton, Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis and City Engineer David Gardner will leave for the capital Feb. 8. The trio will focus on funding for the North Natchez Drainage Project, street repairs at Marblestone Alley and West Stiers Lane and recreation.

While en route to Jackson for a Mississippi Municipal League meeting, Middleton said Tuesday he, Arceneaux-Mathis and Gardner will meet with Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), and Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.). The delegation is also scheduled to meet with the Economic Development Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“While we’re up there we’re going to try to see as many people as we can,” Middleton said. “We’re setting up more appointments between now and next week to get some leads on other people.”

Gardner said last week the city needs an additional $1.2 million to complete the North Natchez Drainage project.

As part of a Project Cooperation Agreement, the city was given $8 million to complete the project, but inflation has raised the cost to $12.4 million. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to put up an additional $3.2 million, but only if the city puts up a $1.2 million match.

The city presented the Marblestone Alley and West Stiers Lane repairs to federal legislators last year, but no funding was provided. Middleton said he hopes persistence pays off this time around.

“(The streets) are in bad shape, and we’ve got every congressional person we know looking at it,” Middleton said.

Addressing recreation, Middleton said the city previously requested $11 million in economic stimulus funds for a $7 million recreation complex and a $4 million facelift to Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center.

Now that 78 percent of Adams County voters voted “yes” in support of the recreation referendum, Middleton said lobbying for recreation dollars is critical.

Middleton said Cochran took interest in the request, and Cochran asked Middleton and City Recreation Director Ralph Tedder to calculate how many jobs would be created by recreation development.

“We estimated there would be 50 new jobs, and we sent the information back to Sen. Cochran’s office,” Middleton said. “We hope to get that funding from Congress. Whether we’ll be fortunate or not, I don’t know, but we’ll continue to try.”

Towards the end of the trip, Middleton and Gardner will attend a meeting of the El Camino 5-State East/West Corridor Commission, on which they both serve.

Middleton, Arceneaux-Mathis and Gardner will return to Natchez Feb. 11.