Director position strikes out during recreation conversations

Published 12:11 am Friday, April 4, 2014

NATCHEZ — An hour of at-times heated discussion did not do much to propel the consolidation of recreation programs in Adams County into the end zone.

The meeting was meant to help the Natchez Board of Aldermen and the Adams County Board of Supervisors come to a consensus on how to fund a director for the Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission.

Recreation commission member Bubba Kaiser said the commission needs someone who is specialized in the recreation field to move the project forward.

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“We as a commission feel like this is our last straw,” he said.

Outside of the recreation director’s position, the commission is not asking the boards to commit additional funding to recreation at this time.

“The main focus would be for us to enhance what we have,” Kaiser said. “We are not looking to build a new (recreation) complex tomorrow, we are not looking to build a pool tomorrow. We are looking for a point person to get us all in unison.”

Instead of finding consensus on a director, however, issues of recent irritation — the city’s reluctance to include its golf program in the consolidation and its contention that the county is not contributing enough dollar-wise to the proposal — dominated the meeting.

Natchez has agreed to donate its entire recreation budget except golf to the consolidation if the county will do the same and fund the recreation director’s position. The county has agreed to put in its entire budget, pay two-thirds of the recreation director’s salary and provide him or her with a vehicle, with the city providing the director with benefits.

The recreation commission initially provided the proposal adopted by the supervisors. The city’s adopted plan was a modification of the same proposal, reached at a board of aldermen meeting nearly a year later.

The city’s recreation budget — including golf — is approximately $1 million annually, of which golf is approximately half.

The county’s annual recreation budget is approximately $50,000.

Alderman Dan Dillard and Alderwoman Sarah Smith expressed some willingness to include golf in the recreation consolidation if the county government would commit to funding capital improvements for recreation.

Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said the county has always been receptive to the idea of capital improvements.

“But we need to talk to our financial adviser to see if we have the capacity,” Grennell said. “We have all of these economic development projects that have come up; we have bond issues out there.”

Kaiser said it would be difficult to ask the county to commit to a specific number at the moment.

“As commission members, we don’t know how much money to ask for, we don’t know an exact plan to have,” he said. “Times have changed in the last five years since we had our last consultant.”

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said the golf course was never included in recreation plans until the commission put it on the table in a meeting well after discussions began, and he did not consider it on the table now.

Recreation Commission Chair Tate Hobdy said golf was included in discussions prior to Brown’s election.

Kaiser said having a recreation program at Duncan Park separate from golf didn’t make sense because it would be inefficient.

“You have got to have the same equipment there to cut grass as you do on golf,” he said. “You would have two entities there with the same equipment there. Your entire infrastructure would be duplicated.”

During the discussion, which became heated, $2.7 million was introduced as a possible cap for capital improvements over five years, and Hobdy said he would craft a proposal to take to both entities that would include golf and capital improvements.

The supervisors did not commit to the $2.7 million figure.

The session ended without any final agreement because the supervisors had another meeting to attend.