Fees for City Auditorium waived for Natchez Festival of Music

Published 1:01 am Wednesday, March 27, 2019


NATCHEZ — The shows must go on for the Natchez Festival of Music — despite the festival losing one of its most important venues at the former Margaret Martin School after leaks in the plumbing system forced the city to shut down water supply to the building last year.

Though the festival is presented in multiple locations, larger productions such as operas, Broadway musicals and headliners were previously held at Margaret Martin and required the facility’s lighting and space.

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The venue also allowed for constructing large sets on site, former festival of music president Mary Lessley said.

This year, festival organizers secured arrangements for using the Natchez City Auditorium for those productions instead, and the Natchez Board of Aldermen unanimously agreed during Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting to waive the fees for the Natchez Festival of Music.

Before that motion passed, however, Alderman Dan Dillard attempted to press a motion to have the city award a contract to the lowest bidder for $57,000 worth of repairs to the plumbing at Margaret Martin in order for the shows to be performed there and to save festival organizers from having to rent sound and lighting equipment and lug heavy sets in and out of the auditorium.

Last week, the Mississippi Senate passed a multi-million dollar bond bill for capital improvements to universities, government buildings and other public properties — which included an amendment offered by Sen. Bob Dearing, D-Natchez, to add $6 million to the bill earmarked for the Margaret Martin School.

The approved changes to the bill must be presented to and passed by the House before the bill is presented to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature.

Dillard said he had hopes of having the plumbing issue resolved in time for the festival in little more than a month.

However, Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said that completing the work in time would not be possible and that the city would lose nearly $60,000 that is not budgeted for a project that would be fully funded when the $6 million from state Legislature is in place.

“That’s not something that can be reimbursed,” Grennell said.

Upon hearing that, Dillard withdrew his motion.

In other matters during Tuesday’s meeting of the Natchez Board of Aldermen, the board:

  • Unanimously awarded general bids and contracts for Emergency Watershed Projects, which include the construction of a retaining wall on Marion Avenue for $1,157,641.50 and the repairing of erosion damages on Pecanwood Drive, Briarwood Road, Woodville Drive and Homochitto Street for $366,299. Director of Public Works, Justin Dollar said more bids would be received next month for additional repairs needed on Cemetery Road, West Steirs Lane, Roundale Street, Linden Drive, Wheeler Drive, Brenham Avenue.

Dollar said the city had secured $1,948,260 in funding for EWP projects and projected city’s portion of the cost would be $114,349.81 due during the next fiscal year, depending on how much funding is approved for the remaining projects once all of the bids are received.

  • Unanimously approved a motion to advertise for a general contractor for the continuation of the north Natchez drainage project, which entails the construction of water easements to prevent flooding.
  • Unanimously approved the designation of nuisance properties on Louisiana Street, North Rankin Street, Daisy Street, Arlington Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Road, East Franklin Street, Old Brown Lane and West Steirs Lane for ordinance violations pertaining to grass and weeds, unstable or hazardous structures and abandoned vehicles.
  • Unanimously deferred a motion to adopt a non-discrimination ordinance pending further review of the ordinance requirements by the Board of Aldermen.
  • Unanimously approved an agreement to auction the Natchez Transportation department’s surplus vehicles with GovDeals, an online auction site designated for government-owned supplies, pending further review by City Attorney Bob Latham.
  • Unanimously approved a motion allowing the mayor to sign documents from the U.S. Secretary of State’s office that would allow the city of Natchez to renew its designation as the “Biscuit Capital of the World” for a fee of $50.
  • Unanimously deferred a motion to allow a temporary banner advertising the “Derby Day Celebration” next month at Rosalie to hang from the Bridge of Sighs on Broadway Street.
  • Unanimously approved an additional job opening for an assistant in the municipal clerk’s office to handle court records.
  • Unanimously approved permission for the neighborhood watch committee to place a welcome sign near the entrance of George F. West Boulevard from Martin Luther King Jr. Street for beautification purposes.