Local bills clear state Legislature

Published 12:03 am Sunday, April 17, 2016

NATCHEZ — The bill that will allow Natchez and Adams County to fund their economic development wing is awaiting the governor’s signature.

A second bill — which will allow Adams County to one day build a new county jail outside the Natchez city limits — has also cleared the Legislature.

The jail bill was introduced at the behest of Sheriff Travis Patten in March, who said the request was keeping his administration in line with a court order that was issued during the last sheriff’s administration.

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Circuit Court Judges Forrest Johnson and Lillie Blackmon Sanders had given the order instructing the county to find out what should be done to determine the future of the Adams County Jail facility in June 2014.

Officials said at the time the jail — located at the corner of Wall and State streets — was not up to current correctional standards, though work has been done since then to address some of its problems.

Board of Supervisors President Mike Lazarus said Saturday the bill did not obligate the county to build a new facility.

“We have no intentions of building a new jail soon,” he said. “We are doing everything we can to repair and keep the other facility up to code, and that is all we are working on now.”

What the bill does allow, however, is for the county — if it should move to build a new jail — to build a new facility outside the city limits. Under previous law, the construction of the jail was required to be located within the county seat.

The Legislature also reapproved a measure to allow the City of Natchez and Adams County to contribute funds to Natchez Inc. — the public-private partnership that serves to recruit industrial development — as it has been contributing. The new law allows each entity to continue funding until 2021.

In addition to city and county funding, Natchez Inc. also receives contributions from Natchez NOW, a private-sector group composed of local business leaders.

The bill authorizes the city and county to fund Natchez Inc., with a cap of $100,000 on the city’s annual contribution and a $165,000 cap for the county.

Natchez NOW contributes approximately $140,000 a year including special requests.

Natchez Inc. was first formed in 2010.