Supervisor: Recreation efforts being held up by plan for new school

Published 12:29 am Tuesday, November 22, 2016


NATCHEZ — Supervisor President Mike Lazarus said Monday if the Natchez-Adams School District wants to build a school at the bean field location, the school board needs to create a referendum stating its intention.

“We are talking about building a recreation complex there,” he said. “What they are doing is holding up recreation.”

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The swimming pool and basketball court are coming and the multi-purpose fields are ready, Lazarus said. The Metropolitan YMCAs of Mississippi organization has been brought in to help mange the site, and a full time director, Alice Agner, living in Natchez has been hired.

With the Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission finally gaining momentum, Lazarus said he would hate for the greater recreation plan to be lost.

Lazarus said if the school district is planning to spend the estimated $42 million on a school, then it could potentially go somewhere else.

“I’m not even going to get into the school part,” Lazarus said. “Yeah we need new schools but that’s up to the public to decide.

“This is about holding up recreation.”

The bean field, a large plot of land adjacent to Natchez High School, has long been considered the site of a new recreation complex.

A non-binding referendum in 2009 aimed at gauging public sentiment for a new recreation complex carried 78 percent of the vote. Voters approved the idea of building a recreation complex not to exceed $5.4 million.

Baseball and softball fields with parking lots capable of hosting outside tournaments are part of the planned complex at the bean field location.

City and county officials have discussed making additional improvements at Duncan Park, but recreation commission members have said the facility does not have the build space to create an economic impact.

To remove the bean field from the recreation interlocal agreement, Recreation Commission Chair Tate Hobdy said the county, the city and the school board would all have to vote in favor of it.

Lazarus said he would ask Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell to clarify if the city intended to give the bean field to the school system.

School board member Phillip West said he would hold his comments until the board had a chance to discuss it. He said the issue of the schools should come up at today’s school board meeting at 4 p.m. at the Braden Administration Building on Homochitto Street.

NASD Superintendent Fred Butcher has said if the district can acquire the funding, he would like to see a new high school built in the bean field next door to the current school. The bean field is publically owned and the district would not have to factor buying land into construction costs.

Following completion of the new school, the next option would be to renovate Natchez High School.

The renovated campus option plus a new high school would allow the district to move the middle school to the current high school facility, close down Frazier Elementary School, and use the Morgantown campus as an elementary school.

The cost to build a new school and renovate the existing Natchez High School would cost more than $60 million, according to estimates from the district’s construction consulting firm, Volkert Inc.