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Rec land secured, funds next

NATCHEZ — The recreation committee has secured the land and picked a landscape architect, and now its time for the fun part — funding.

The Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission is still in the planning stage of transforming a plot of land next to Natchez High School known as “the bean field” into a prime recreation facility and updating existing parks, but the commission needs to dig for funding sources first.

The recreation commission members have started to look for grants to fund research and development, a process that includes having blueprints drawn up by a landscape architect.

“We’re trying to be very methodical about what we’re doing, so when the last piece of fence is put up we can make sure it’s exactly what (Natchez) needs,” commission Chairman Tate Hobdy said.

Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development District planner Allen Laird, who has experience with grant writing, attended Wednesday’s recreation commission meeting to offer insight on applying for grants.

“It’s tough. Recreation is low on the totem pole, but it’s certainly possible,” Laird said.

Commission members asked Laird about the possibility of using a part of a Department of Housing and Urban Development grant, to which the city already has access.

Hobdy said the $90,000 HUD grant, which expires in 2013, covers “soft costs” only. The board is hopeful that research and development qualifies can qualify as soft costs.

However, the recreation commission plans to submit budget requests to the board of alderman, board of supervisors and Natchez-Adams School Board to include $11,000 for recreation in the city, county and NASD budgets.

Hobdy said the funding requests will be made with the stipulation that a grant might cover the costs for the next fiscal year. However, the requests are intended as precaution to cover planning expenses if a grant does not pan out.

“They’re all doing their budgets right now, and we’d rather them have (the request) before they finalize the budget,” Hobdy said.

The board discussed the possibility of asking Laird to work with the school distinct staff grant writer to search for grants.

Commission member Bubba Kaiser told Laird about the possibility of attaining a Major League Baseball grant for approximately $500,000 for a portion of the construction.

“Just e-mail (the information) to me, and I’ll do whatever it takes,” Laird said.

Hobdy said the commission might also be able to apply for a grant from the Adidas brand company to fund some projects, such as lighting fixtures at soccer fields.

Hobdy said a 60-day cancelation clause in the lease on the bean field property from The National Park Service has been removed, and the land is secured for the next 42 years.

Hobdy said the clause would have allowed the park service to reclaim ownership of the land for its own use after issuing a 60-day notice to the city.

He said they will work on getting permanent leasing from the park service, but the commission at least feels comfortable moving forward without the 60-day cancellation option in place.

Hobdy said the Superintendent of Natchez Trace Parkway, Cameron Sholly, is eager to move forward with the recreation projects.

The recreation commission picked a prospective landscape architect earlier this month.

The commission saw presentations and received bids from four landscape architects, and Lose & Associates from Lawrenceville, Ga., had the best vision and lowest price, Hobdy said.

Hobdy said including occasional trips to Natchez, Lose & Associates estimates the cost of the project to be $20,000.

Hobdy said bids from all four companies ranged from approximately $20,000 to $45,000.

Hobdy said another advantage of the company they chose is that it specializes exclusively in parks and recreational facilities.

Lose & Associates has prepared a tentative schedule, including an initial meeting to present the plan, a follow-up meeting, and a public forum for when they are hired.

“We’re basically trying to figure out if HUD grant will work to go ahead an hire (Lose & Associates),” Kaiser said.

Hobdy said he has updated the board of alderman, board of supervisors and school board on the recreation commission’s progress.

“It’s aggressive to say we will be starting (construction) by the middle to end of next year, but I would like to keep that as a goal,” Hobdy said.

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