YMCA interlocal agreement deadline approaches

Published 12:26 am Monday, October 30, 2017


NATCHEZ — City leaders hope to meet with the YMCA about the interlocal agreement early this week with the Nov. 1 deadline looming.

The Metropolitan YMCAs of Mississippi sent a letter to county and city leaders earlier this summer announcing the possibility the YMCA would leave Natchez in November.

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The reasoning was because Natchez YMCA Director Alice Agner has not been able to fulfill her contractual obligations, which are based on the interlocal agreement.

Some city officials had concerns about the original agreement, including a provision in which Agner would supervise city recreation employees and have management over the pocket parks.

Agner has since modified what she would be responsible for at the city’s request. She requested management of the Margaret Martin gym, the baseball fields at Duncan Park and the swimming pool when built. The YMCA already has control of the county-funded multipurpose fields near where the pool would be built.

Agner did not push for management of the pocket parks or supervision of employees, though she has said she hoped as employees retire or leave, the YMCA would be able to hire replacements.

Agner said the new plan would give her the ability to run baseball, softball, basketball, football and soccer programs and would not interfere with any of the other local leagues.

For the YMCA to stay, Agner said Friday she would be happy with seeing a good-faith draft by Wednesday.

“We need something that shows that we are going to be able to move forward,” she said. “Without that document, they will probably tell me to focus on the grant program.”

The Natchez YMCA is currently running an afterschool youth program at the Margaret Martin gym. Should the interlocal agreement not be present by Wednesday or not acceptable, Agner said she anticipated the YMCA would pull out of Natchez at the conclusion of the grant program.

Agner said since the county, school board and recreation commission would also need to approve a new interlocal agreement, she understood a finalized document would not be available by Wednesday even though the new document was requested over the summer.

“I truly hope it all works out and the YMCA continues to have a presence in Natchez,” Agner said.

Natchez-Adams Recreation Commission Chair Tate Hobdy said the commission just wants to see progress from the city.

“I think everyone is committed to it as long as that happens,” Hobdy said.

Adams County Board Attorney Scott Slover said Friday as soon as the city sends out its draft, the county supervisors would then be able to comment on any revisions they would like to see.

“The board will make sure they are comfortable with it,” he said.

Board of Aldermen Attorney Robert Latham said Friday he was in the process of finishing up the final changes that Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis wanted to make. Latham said he hoped to meet with the commission and YMCA early this week.

Arceneaux-Mathis said after speaking to members of the Metropolitan YMCA, she felt comfortable taking the pocket parks out because running community playgrounds is not really the YMCA’s mission.

Of the communities that have a YMCA presence in Mississippi, Arceneaux-Mathis said none of them have any dealings with pocket parks.

“That’s the way we wanted to handle it here,” she said. “We don’t want anything that would end up having a fee attached to parks.”

In her mind, leaders put the cart before the horse in bringing the YMCA into the community before the pool was completed. Arceneaux-Mathis said as soon as the pool is completed, the YMCA would have plenty to do.

Arceneaux-Mathis said the YMCA would run the pool and they already have a lease agreement with the Margaret Martin gym. However, she said the city left management of the fields at Duncan Park within the purview of the city.

Mayor Darryl Grennell said he is ready to move forward with the interlocal agreement so that all parties involved can be on the same page.

Grennell said the YMCA would be involved with enhancing baseball and softball programs in the community.

“We need to make sure we are all on the same page so we won’t have any problems down the road in terms of turf issues,” Grennell said. “We need to move forward with recreation.”

Grennell said recreation is not just for the youth.

“Recreation is for everyone in the community, young and old,” he said. “Natchez-Adams is one community. We need to work together to enhance recreation for the whole community.”