Public deserves detailed information from convention center

Published 12:45 am Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Natchez Convention Center has been great for the City of Natchez, particularly downtown, since it was built in 2001.

The center has pulled in thousands and thousands of people for meetings and most of those people come with their wallets open, generating money for hotels, restaurants, gift shops and more.

But for the past 11 years, since 2006, when the city contracted out management of the center, the center’s operations have been cloaked in mystery to many, which is a shame because it is a public building, built with public funds.

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Business owners have questioned whether the management company — which also owns and operates an adjacent hotel — have shown preferential treatment to its own hotel.

The city’s agreement with the management company requires regular financial reporting so that the city can understand how the center is doing and, quite frankly, if the city is getting a good value for the management fee it’s paying.

For years, the City of Natchez has been simply accepting the generalized, aggregated information the managers provide.

Local resident and Louisiana attorney Paul Benoist has made the matter and issue by circulating a petition seeking to pressure city leaders to push for more information.

Benoist’s push is appreciated because clearly the city doesn’t have a clue what’s going on at the convention center financially, despite paying nearly $350,000 each year to the group managing it.

The center needs to provide detailed, clear information to the public before any extension of the city’s contract is made next month.