• 48°

City takes steps to renovate senior center; votes to apply for grant

Natchez Senior Citizens’ Multi-Purpose Center swimming coordinator Maxine McAndrews speaks to the Natchez Board of Aldermen about the state of facilities at the center. McAndrews and 28 fellow senior citizens that actively use the center attended the meeting in which the Natchez Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to accept the first of a three-part plan to renovate the center. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Natchez Senior Citizens’ Multi-Purpose Center swimming coordinator Maxine McAndrews speaks to the Natchez Board of Aldermen about the state of facilities at the center. McAndrews and 28 fellow senior citizens that actively use the center attended the meeting in which the Natchez Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to accept the first of a three-part plan to renovate the center. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — The 102-year-old Natchez Senior Citizens’ Multipurpose Center inched closer to a full facelift Tuesday.

Ward 1 Alderman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis examines photos of the Natchez Senior Citizens’ Multipurpose Center that were provided by the building’s neighbor Joe Stone. Stone suggested  the aldermen also consider exterior renovations. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Ward 1 Alderman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis examines photos of the Natchez Senior Citizens’ Multipurpose Center that were provided by the building’s neighbor Joe Stone. Stone suggested the aldermen also consider exterior renovations. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

With 29 senior citizens who actively use the center’s facilities in attendance, the Natchez Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to accept the first priority of a three-part plan to address critical infrastructure needs at the center.

The first part of the plan requires the city to match a $215,400 grant that they will apply for from a Community Development Block Grant provided by the Mississippi Development Authority.

Funds from the city will be provided through community development funds from Magnolia Bluff Casino.

And while the renovations defined in the first priority address the center’s most critical needs — such as an updated fire alarm system and repairing damaged windows — Sabrena Bartley, executive director for the center, said she hopes all three priorities are eventually met.

“We are in support of a full renovation that identifies all the building’s issues,” Bartley told the aldermen.

Community Development Director James Johnston said it would cost approximately $1.5 million to fully renovate the structure. With all three priorities met, the center would receive a complete interior and exterior update.

Senior citizens stand in support of renovations to the center the meeting. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Senior citizens stand in support of renovations to the center the meeting. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

To demonstrate the immediate need for these renovations, Bartley shared photos with the aldermen that detail the structure’s current eyesore state.

“It really tells a tale of the building,” Ward 4 Alderman Tony Fields said after looking at the photos.

However, because of limited funds, Fields said the city has only enough money to meet priority one needs.

“We are committed to the senior citizens, and we’re glad to get the ball rolling,” Fields said. “We have to do this in phases though, unfortunately.”

A few senior citizens echoed Bartley’s sentiment that the center needs more attention sooner rather than later.

“It’s been 30 years since the pool has had any updates,” said Maxine McAndrews, who oversees swimming activities at the center. “Just like me, it needs some refurbishing.”

McAndrews said on average, about 100 people use the pool each week.

As the city looks ahead to address the long list of repairs needed at the center, Mayor Butch Brown said he’s confident the city will move forward, eventually, with all renovations.

“We work hard to maintain our city properties, and this property is no different,” Brown said.