City requests recreation meeting

Published 12:06 am Thursday, June 12, 2014

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Board of Aldermen has requested its appointees to the Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission meet with it in the coming month to discuss what — if any — plans for a consolidated city-county recreation district exist.

The board likewise requested the commission provide a financial framework for the consolidated program.

Alderman Dan Dillard made a motion that was passed unanimously at Tuesday’s aldermen meeting to request a budget from the commission. Dillard also provided his own suggestions for a recreation initiative with dollar amounts attached.

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“I believe where this process continues to fall apart is in the interlocal agreement, it delegates the responsibility of bringing forth a financial plan to the commission — it is not a request, but a requirement of the interlocal agreement,” Dillard said. “The fact this commission has failed to bring a financial plan all these years is just dumbfounding.”

Dillard said the boards have previously funded a $33,000 fee for a consultant, but when those plans were introduced several years ago, they did not have finances attached to them.

“This is budgetary stuff,” he said. “This is the kind of thing boards do. Numbers can be moved.”

Recreation Commission chairman Tate Hobdy said the commission’s

position is the same as it has been to previous queries, that it needs a director to develop a plan.

“They want a financial plan, but we don’t know what we really need, and that is why we need to get a director, to figure out where the best use of our money can be,” Hobdy said. “They can’t just make up numbers out of thin air. All the aldermen kind of have different ideas of what they want to see as far as recreation is concerned, but without a simple and unified plan where somebody is a point person for that plan, we can’t implement it.”

The Adams County Board of Supervisors recently voted to fully fund the position of the director who would run the consolidated program.

Hobdy said the commission needs a clear commitment from the city board that all of its recreation budget — including the sometimes contested golf program — will be turned over to the commission before it will advertise for a director.

“If (the supervisors) hire a director but the board of aldermen is not on board, then he or she will only have the county’s facilities to direct,” Hobdy said.

Dillard said he doesn’t believe a director needs to be in place for a basic financial workup to be provided.

“When we get a director, he or she may look at everything and say, ‘We can get those tennis courts cheaper than that and push that money into the swimming pool budget and maybe get a sprayground,’” Dillard said. “We can do that, but it has to be something (the aldermen, the supervisors and the school board) can look at.”

Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said she wanted the city’s appointees to the commission to come because the aldermen have not heard from the commission as a whole for quite some time. Most speaking for the commission has been done through member Bubba Kaiser, she said.

“We need to have a little input from those people we have appointed since everything seems to be discombobulated,” she said. “We have people in our community who are coming to us and holding us responsible for recreation not moving forward when we are ready to go.”

The interlocal agreement that formed the recreation commission specifies that the three participating bodies — the aldermen, the county supervisors and the Natchez-Adams School District’s Board of Trustees — each appointed three members to the commission.

“I just want to hear from our members of that commission explain exactly what is the holdup,” Mathis said. “I want them all there together at once instead of having each person come in one at a time.”

The recreation commission was created after the residents of Adams County overwhelmingly passed a non-binding referendum in 2009 stating support for a consolidated recreation complex.

The proposed complex was not to exceed $5.4 million in cost, and would have been funded by a bond taken out by the county government.

Since 2009, the proposal has shifted from building a single complex to broader talks of a unified city-county program, and in recent months the discussion has focused on funding and how much each participating government body will provide