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Natchez not part of state bond bill

NATCHEZ — A $422.8 million bond bill that cleared the Mississippi Legislature without further discussion Monday won’t include the $13 million directly requested for Natchez.

But a $5 million appropriation in the bill might indirectly impact Natchez in a multi-million dollar way, said Sen. Bob Dearing, a Democrat from Natchez.

The $5 million will go into a railroad revitalization fund to be maintained by the Mississippi Development Authority.

Cities and counties throughout the state can apply to MDA for funds to be used toward local rail lines.

The railroad from Natchez to Brookhaven would be ideal candidate for the funds, Dearing said, and maintaining the line at maximum effectiveness would help sustain current industry and recruit new ones.

The $13 million for Natchez projects that was cut from the bill in order to lower the total bond amount would have gone to the North Natchez Drainage project, Duncan Park and the Natchez Institute, the building that houses the Historic Natchez Foundation.

The drainage funds — $8.5 million — were in the original House version of the bond bill but never made it to the Senate, Dearing said.

The money would have funded ongoing work to install a drainage system on the north part of the city, an area that frequently experiences problems after rains.

Dearing introduced the request for $3.5 million for Duncan Park in order to put golf cart paths and a watering system on the oldest nine holes of the city-owned golf course. Upgrading the greens would help attract tourists and therefore money to the city, he said.

And $1 million was requested for the Natchez Institute largely to fund an air conditioning unit for the protection of historical documents and artifacts housed in the building, Dearing said.

The Historic Natchez Foundation had pledged a half a million of its own money for the project.

Dearing has introduced the Natchez Institute and Duncan Park requests for several years, more than five, he said.

“This was only the third time we’ve gotten in a bill this far,” Dearing said, adding he is hopeful the requests will get funded next year.

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