Breakfast hosted Monday

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, May 10, 2011

NATCHEZ — The annual Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast brought together approximately 60 community leaders, citizens and the legislative delegation at the Natchez Eola Hotel Monday.

A rundown of budgets and redistricting were topics discussed by state officials.

Before the audience heard from legislators and senators, Natchez City Engineer David Gardner shared updates on the flood.

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Gardner said while he is concerned with how long the water will be at its crest, forecast to be 64 feet on May 21, the city is taking extra precautionary measures.

“I think the instant levee system baskets containing sand should take care of everything Under-the-Hill as far as water goes,” Gardner said.

Gardner said thanks to new software, floodwaters can be simulated in the lower-lying areas of Adams County and Concordia Parish.

“The digital mapping has really worked well,” Gardner said. “I think we will be OK. The good thing about this flood is, we are allowed time to prepare and look at every situation.”

Gardner said the digital maps will not be available to the public, but residents can call the engineering department and inquire about areas of concern.

Rep. Sam Mims said he has been in contact with the governor’s office, the Department of Public Health and the Mississippi Emergency Management Association concerning the flood.

“They are ready,” Mims said. “We are prepared to work, but we pray it’s not as bad as they are anticipating.”

Mims said it was an interesting legislative session, and he was happy to see the budget passed and revenues pick up.

“Hopefully we’ve seen the bottom of the economy,” Mims said.

Sen. Bob Dearing said the budget was the top priority of the legislative session. He said the budget was balanced and the rainy day fund was left intact.

A $422 million comprehensive bond bill, which included more than 100 projects, provided $5 million for railroad improvements. Dearing said he was glad to see the funds go to the revitalization of the Brookhaven-Natchez railroad line.

Dearing said he was also happy for the passage of an animal cruelty bill that enacted the Mississippi Dog and Cat Protection Law of 2011, but was disappointed that key provisions were left out. He said he will introduce legislation to amend the bill that will charge a person of felony abuse for killing an animal; charge a person with individual offenses for killing multiple dogs or cats and apply felonies for first offenses.

Sen. Kelvin Butler said he was frustrated that redistricting was not finished during the session.

“We should have had it done,” Butler said. “It was a good plan — the best for our area. I am most concerned about the plan that is best for southwest Mississippi.”

Sen. Robert Johnson said federal court judges will have a hearing today to discuss the two redistricting plans passed by the House and Senate.

Johnson said he was also pleased with the budget, even though $17 million was cut for K-12 schools.

He said there might be a special session called before the summer is out to deal with unemployment.

“The unemployment rate is at record numbers, and it’s our priority to create jobs in the area,” Johnson said.

He said jobs will follow the movement of wealth in southwest Mississippi.