County, port to meet about payments for $2M in debt

Published 12:28 am Sunday, August 27, 2017


NATCHEZ — Supervisors plan before November to meet with port officials on payment arrangements for approximately $2 million in debt owed to the county.

In 1997, Adams County leaders and the Natchez-Adams County Port worked out a gentleman’s agreement on $3 million in debt the county took on to make improvements, including construction of the T-dock.

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The gentleman’s agreement did not obligate the port to pay a specific amount on the debt per year, but rather the port would make payments when economic times were good. Over the past 20 years, the port has paid off approximately $1 million in the original $3 million debt.

Over at least the last two years, the port has made annual $100,000 payments.

Board of Supervisors President Mike Lazarus said he was not expecting the port to pay off the entire $2 million in one year. The county just wants to work out more formal arrangements, he said.

“We are at the end of the line where it is time for the debt to be renegotiated,” Lazarus said. “Technically the port owes us $2 million. We would not expect them to try to pay it all off, we just want to sit down and work out where they will continue to make payments.”

In addition to the debt for the T-dock project, the port also makes $337,000 in annual payments to the county for the port’s warehouse.

Port Director Anthony Hauer said the port has been adhering to the warehouse lease, which is the only formal document of debt with the county.

Hauer said he did not expect the county to forgive the $2 million in debt on the T-dock, but he did hope for patience.

“In this business, we are at the mercies of the market,” Hauer said. “We don’t have a guaranteed revenue stream like a tax base. All we have is what we make.”

Hauer said without getting into specific numbers, he is willing to pay as much as he can as long as the port can stay operational.

County Administrator Joe Murray said the county is still making payments on the 1997 port improvements. In 2003 the note on the T-dock was refinanced along with the $3.9 million construction of the Adams County Juvenile Detention Center. The county took out the debt to construct the detention center in 1999.