Margaret Martin money stripped from bond bill, other local projects still alive

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 29, 2019


NATCHEZ — Six million dollars earmarked for the renovation of Margaret Martin School were stripped from the state’s general bond bill Wednesday, and a local senator put the blame on Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.

The House and the Senate passed the Senate Bill 3065 which includes more than $200 million in borrowing for state projects.

Although funding for Margaret Martin was taken out of the bill, $1 million dollars for continued construction of the Belwood levee near the Natchez-Adams County Port survived.

In the bill, universities will get $85 million and community colleges will get $25 million, while state agencies will get $38.6 million. Local projects total $58.4 million.

Lawmakers are expected to vote soon on Senate Bill 3049, an appropriations bill that includes $38,340 for a Civil Rights monument at the City Auditorium and $400,000 for the repairs and renovations to the Missionary Baptist Seminary on the old Natchez College campus, according to Sen. Tammy Witherspoon, D-Magnolia.

Pleased with funding of the local projects, Dearing said he was saddened by the deletion of money for the old school building on Homochitto Street.

The funding was deleted in conference Wednesday, one week after the senate added the money to the multi-million dollar bill for capital improvements to public properties.

“I am so very sorry to report this but the Senate Conference, with instructions from Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, removed the language for the Margaret Martin Jr. High bond bill even though both the House and Senate has included the language in their individual bond bills,” Sen. Bob Dearing, D-Natchez, wrote to constituents on social media.

An amendment introduced by Dearing last week and unanimously approved by the Senate would have released up to $2 million a year for three years for the renovation of the school building on Homochitto Street.

A group of community members has plans to turn the building into an arts center.

Dearing said when he talked to the Reeves, Reeves said the money was taken out of the bill because Natchez had already received funding for other projects.

“You would think with both the House and Senate passing the bill (including money allocated for Margaret Martin), that they would keep the project in the bill,” Dearing said. “I am so very, very disappointed.”

Dearing previously announced he will not run for re-election.

Although he will be retired from the Senate, Dearing said he will continue to lobby for the project from home.

“I won’t be up (in Jackson), but I will be praying that it happens one day.”