City discusses specifics of recreation agreement

Published 12:02 am Friday, November 25, 2016


NATCHEZ — The Natchez Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday to put in writing a plan to transfer some city employees to the recreation commission, and also look to see if the commission can lease city property.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said city attorney Bob Latham would look into transferring the employees to the auspices of the Natchez-Adams Recreation Commission, while also maintaining city employment status concerning payroll and benefits.

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The majority of the employees are at Duncan Park, while others are general city recreation employees.

Recreation Commission Chair Tate Hobdy said Wednesday rather than having the employees answer to a city director, they should be under the leadership of Natchez YMCA Director Alice Agner.

“All of the direction should come from The Y and the recreation commission,” Hobdy said. “But the biggest thing is maintaining their benefits. There are a lot of good employees out there who work with the city and are vested in PERS (Mississippi’s state retirement system), and we want to make sure their situation doesn’t get messed up because of a miscommunication.”

Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis brought up the proposal to seek a legal opinion on whether the recreation commission had the authority to lease a city property without the city having any knowledge of it.

By an accident, Grennell said he learned the Margaret Martin gym had been leased by the commission to the Open Session Foundation. Nobody in the city government knew it had been leased, and Grennell said he is concerned the lease may violate state statue.

Hobdy said through the interlocal agreement with the previous city administration, it was his understanding the commission did have the authority to lease the properties in the agreement, which includes the Martin Gym on Homochitto Street.

“I think this is a transitional issue,” Hobdy said. “I think this administration is questioning that, which is fine, we will do whatever is needed.”

Hobdy said he just wanted to make sure the Open Session Foundation is not inconvenienced.

The foundation helps youth transition from the education system to the workforce through character building and teaching soft skills such as resume writing and interviewing.

“It is a good organization,” Hobdy said. “I think we can find a solution agreeable to everyone.”

Hobdy said Open Session Foundation’s end of the lease is to help with maintenance on the gym. Hobdy said the organization has redone the benches and are working on bringing in a new HVAC unit. The lease is year to year.

The foundation also has to make sure its schedule does not interfere with area basketball programs using the gym.