Pool plan offered to county: Community development board moving to city

Published 12:04 am Saturday, January 3, 2015

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors gave a tentative but non-committal nod to a 10-year, $11,540,000 consolidated recreation plan.

The resolution the supervisors adopted stopped short of actually adopting the plan, which was presented by members of the Magnolia Bluffs Casino Community Development Board.

The community development board will now take the proposal to the City of Natchez’s Board of Aldermen for discussion in the near future.

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Magnolia Bluffs Casino has committed to giving the city of Natchez $250,000 annually to a community development fund, and members of the committee meant to advise how the money is spent has been meeting with the members of Adams County’s governments in an effort to push some form of recreation development.

The community development board has suggested the building of a community pool, an idea that has been met with the embrace of some supervisors and reluctance on the part of others if it is not part of a broader recreation initiative.

The plan presented Friday by development board member David Paradise is in some ways an effort to meet those concerns and address the long-stalled city-county discussions about how a consolidated recreation program will be funded.

The new proposal includes:

• A one-time contribution from the City of Natchez of $500,000 and a one-time contribution of $700,000 from Adams County for the construction of a junior Olympic-size pool and two soccer fields.

The funds would be enough for the pool to have a temporary cover and allow it to be heated for year-round use, Paradise said.

• An annual commitment of $500,000 from the City of Natchez and an annual commitment of $334,000 from Adams County to fund the maintenance and operation of all city and county recreation facilities.

The funding represents a 60-40 percent split in funding between the city and county, with the city putting in the same amount of taxpayer funds already in its annual recreation budget, Paradise said.

• Matching annual contributions of $100,000 each from Natchez and Adams County for 10 years to fund a bond issue that would build the recreation capital improvement budget.

In addition to representatives of the Magnolia Bluffs committee, members of the Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission were present.

Recreation Commission Chair Tate Hobdy said he has been creating a budget for the operation of the pool and has visited the Vicksburg municipal pool to see how its operations and maintenance are accomplished.

“They have kind of made that the center of their recreation complex,” he said. “It is really the thing that sets the tempo and tone for their non-baseball related recreation.”

The difference is Vicksburg’s recreation complex is run solely by the city and does not have county input, he said.

“Once we can get this consolidated, not only will we have city resources but county resources as well, so when we get this developed and we can develop soccer – which I am passionate about — and the rest of the bean field,” Hobdy said. “We can further develop Duncan Park, Providence Road Park — anything that is recreation oriented in Natchez is what we ultimately want to help.”

Recreation Commission Member Bubba Kaiser said before any plan can move forward, the commission will still need to hire a director, a move long-stalled by apparent lack-of-consensus between the city and county on what the recreation program would look like.

The commission would also need to find out what its exact budget would be before committing to a plan, Kaiser said.

Other issues that would ultimately need to be addressed include if the Duncan Park golf course will be included in the package, Kaiser said.

Community development board member Phillip West said the proposal was structured the way it was because it was offering something everybody wanted.

“Our real objective was to fill the one major glaring void in our community,” West said. “Even though we do need improved baseball fields in our community, we have baseball fields. We need improved tennis courts, but we have tennis courts. We need a swimming pool of quality.

“I don’t want us to get hung up on the Duncan Park situation.”

While the supervisors expressed some concern about the requested annual payments, when the commission asked them to adopt a resolution of endorsement the board passed it.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus voted yes but said his yes was tentative based on if the county had the funds to support the plan, and Supervisor David Carter voted against the endorsement.

“I am voting ‘no’ at this time because there are so many unknowns at this time,” Carter said.

After the meeting, Lazarus said his endorsement for the pool plan was still contingent on a total recreation package being developed.

“I represent everybody in the county, some who want a pool, some who want tennis,” he said. “I even have to represent the folks who don’t want recreation. Unless we are going to cover it all, I can’t vote for parts of it. It is going to have to be guaranteed that they whole facility gets built.”

Supervisors Darryl Grennell, Calvin Butler and Angela Hutchins voted in favor of the endorsement.

Members of the community development board said they would take the broad plan to the aldermen to see if the city board will approve it and it can be pursued further.