Area leaders discuss Legislature wish list for upcoming session

Published 12:15 am Friday, December 7, 2018


NATCHEZ — Natchez and Adams County elected officials and community leaders met Thursday morning with legislators to outline priorities they hope will be addressed in the upcoming session.

Priorities included such items as infrastructure, education, industry and economic development requests.

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“Every year, we coordinate with our city, county, tourism commission and all of our other stakeholders in the area that might have some concerns on both a state and federal level,” said Chandler Russ, executive director of Natchez Inc. “Our goal today is to walk through these items and get feedback from our community as well as our legislative delegation and hear their thoughts and concerns.”

Attendees at Thursday’s session held at the Hotel Vue, included Rep. Angela Cockerham; Rep. Sam Mims, V; Rep. Robert Johnson, III; and Sen. Bob Dearing as well as members of Natchez Inc., Natchez Now, the Natchez Tourism Department, the National Park Service, the Natchez Board of Aldermen and the Adams County Board of Supervisors.

Members of each organization had a list of items to bring to the table for discussion.

Kathleen Bond, the Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent, discussed the transfer of ownership of the Natchez Visitor Reception Center to the National Park Service, which requires legislative approval.

“The park service is just waiting on this local and private bill,” Bond said. “That’s really the last hurdle left to the donation.”

Johnson said there shouldn’t be an issue passing the bill during this legislative session.

“We have fought and scrambled to get money for that center,” Johnson said. “The problem is we — the state — do not own it. … Because we don’t own it and because we don’t have the money to fund it, it would be great if we could transfer it to the National Park Service. … We would be giving away a debt.”

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said the city is also seeking federal funds for the renovation of the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center and the construction of a memorial that commemorates the Parchman Ordeal, an event in Natchez during the Civil Rights era, in which numerous African Americans were wrongfully incarcerated in the state penitentiary at Parchman.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Grennell said, “to recognize those individuals back in 1965 who were proud to take a stand during the Civil Rights movement.”

Meanwhile, Adams County officials said they hope the levee project at the Belwood industrial site — located near the Natchez-Adams County Port — will be considered for funding.

Russ said the project is nearly two-thirds complete.

“The county has invested about $1 million so far in the construction of the levee,” he said. “We anticipate another $2 million is needed to complete the final leg of that levee. … It’s a huge opportunity for us. … which is important for the long-term success of the industrial port area and industrial development in the county.”

Thursday’s meeting closed with the city presenting Johnson with a certificate of appreciation for his effort in securing $900,000 for emergency watershed projects earlier this year, which will help repair erosion damage on more than 20 different properties throughout Natchez.

“These projects would have been underfunded in the 2019 budget for the city of Natchez. … Therefore the mayor and board of aldermen … wish to express their heartfelt appreciation and gratitude for the work and the efforts put for by Rep. Robert Johnson, III,” said alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis.