City, County approve interlocal recreation agreement

Published 12:38 am Tuesday, December 5, 2017


NATCHEZ — Adams County and City of Natchez officials came to an agreement Monday with the YMCA, ending a months-long standstill on city-county recreation management.

After a slightly contentious beginning to a joint meeting between the Adams County Board of Supervisors and Natchez Board of Aldermen, the two entities agreed to a 50-50 split of construction, maintenance and operating costs of a new public swimming pool, which is currently under construction and expected to be completed in May.

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The supervisors also agreed to pay the entire salary of Natchez YMCA Director Alice Agner.

The parties also stipulated that the city would maintain control over the golf, tennis and basketball programs.

The meeting began tenuously, with each side debating about what the other should contribute to recreation.

After board of supervisors President Mike Lazarus said the city and the county should split additional expenses that will result from the new recreation endeavors — pointing out that the county currently spends $11,500 a month and will spend more beginning Jan. 1 — City Attorney Bob Latham replied that the city budgets more than twice what the county toward recreation.

Latham said the city budgets well more than $800,000 for recreation, while the county allocates approximately $334,000.

Latham further said the county, based on the $11,500 monthly figure, is not spending its entire budget, while the city is currently spending all of the money it budgeted.

“The way I look at it, you’re not halfway at what your spending level is,” Latham said.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that we pay 100 percent of what we’ve been paying, and now we come in and pick up half of what the county was going to cover with recreation,” Latham said.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, who also chairs the city’s recreation committee, said the city has approximately $331,000 to work with after factoring out all the money that goes towards the Duncan Park Golf Course.

A few minutes of back-and-forth ensued about what the funds specifically cover and whether the budgets truly reflected a fair split.

Both District 3 Supervisor Angela Hutchins and District 4 Supervisor Ricky Gray argued that most recreation takes place within the city, which is why the budget figures appear imbalanced.

Gray, however, later said he is fine with the spending amounts in place as long as the city pays its part of the pool.

“Me, I don’t have a problem paying what they say the county was going to pay. The only problem I had … If y’all are going to pay half of whatever the pool costs and all that, I’m happy with that,” Gray said.

The eventually two sides agreed on splitting the costs evenly.

Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission Chair Tate Hobdy gave an estimate — though he stressed it was only a preliminary figure — of approximately $80,000 to run the pool in its first year.

Hobdy estimated that the pool would run at approximately a $20,000 deficit that year, though Hobdy said he believed the costs would decrease after the first year.

Hobdy and Agner said until Monday the holdup with the inter-local agreement (ILA) had stunted anything the YMCA planned to do before knowing what the organization’s role would be going forward.

“When we didn’t know what our jurisdiction was, we kind of backed off,” Agner said.

Hobdy said the board now plans to hold two charrettes to gauge what the public wants to see done next for recreation.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said he would like to see an outdoor fitness court, an approximately $90,000 project that anyone could use to enhance fitness and well-being.

Hobdy said he was fine with the idea, but he first wanted to hold the forums to get ideas from citizens.

“I don’t want to get pigeonholed into a project before I even see what people want,” Hobdy said.

Hobdy told supervisors board attorney Scott Slover that a “master plan” for recreation development could be expected in May.