Natchez aldermen move on recreation issue

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, February 5, 2014

NATCHEZ — The move to start a consolidated recreation program in Natchez-Adams County took a step forward Tuesday when the Natchez Board of Aldermen voted to join the county government in funding a recreation director’s position.

The vote, taken at the recommendation of the nine-person Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission, was to turn over the city’s recreation budget to the as-yet-unhired director, whose salary and vehicle will be funded by the county.

Adams County’s board of supervisors adopted a resolution supporting the plan last year, which also included turning over the county recreation budget to the commission.

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The only caveat on Alderman Mark Fortenbery’s unanimously passed motion was that the city’s golf program and the funds used to support it would not be turned over to the consolidated director at this time.

Recreation Commission Chairman Tate Hobdy said Tuesday’s vote was “a big step.”

The Natchez board had previously asked the recreation commission to have plans drawn using Duncan Park as the central hub for a consolidated recreation district with several other outlying parks and facilities supporting some programs.

“I took that request back to my board, and the consensus was until we have a recreation director, there is really no sense in going through that process because we don’t have anybody who is full time to move with that,” Hobdy said. “Until we get a city-county director, we are pretty much back on our heels.”

Hobdy said he understood that the golf program could not be included at this time because the city has contracts with third parties overseeing its management, but the recreation commission would like to see it ultimately included in the consolidated recreation program.

“I think the board (of aldermen) agrees with you on that,” Fortenbery said.

When Alderman Ricky Gray asked if basketball leagues might be incorporated into the future plan, Hobdy said a director will help with the best way to approach such a decision, including where basketball courts can be incorporated.

“One of the reasons we want to use a landscape architect who knows recreation, and one of the reasons we want a director who knows what they are doing is that it is easy to pour concrete and stick a basketball goal in it, but that’s not necessarily the best thing to do,” Gray said.

“There are a lot of things we can do with a full time director that we can’t do as a volunteer board of nine.”

Gray also expressed concerns about the city’s current recreation department employees.

“I pray to God when this new guy comes in, he doesn’t go to getting rid of those employees who work for the city recreation department,” he said.

But Alderwoman Sarah Smith said competent employees shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

“If the employees are doing a good job, the director will want to keep them,” she said.

In other news:

-The board approved 4-3 a contract that will allow AT&T to provide its U-verse service in the city. AT&T U-verse provides phone, television and Internet services.

Mayor Butch Brown said the contract is similar to a cable franchise agreement.

Aldermen Dan Dillard, Tony Fields and Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis voted for the contract, while Smith, Gray and Fortenbery cast votes against it. Brown broke the tie with a vote in favor of the measure.

Smith said she wants the service in town, but voted against the contract as it was presented because it had a different fee schedule than the one the city required for Cable One.

-The board voted to allow the Youth Build program to use space above the council chambers as a base of operations for minimal rent if the program is able to restart this year.

Youth Build is a program that helps students age 18 to 24 get a Graduate Equivalency Degree and provides job training. Participants also work on construction projects focusing on low-income housing.