Recreation finances are uncertain

Published 12:01 am Friday, October 11, 2019

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Adams County Recreation Commission called a joint meeting with the Natchez Board of Aldermen, Adams County Board of Supervisors and the Natchez Adams School District on Thursday to address what commission members said are financial fumbles preventing them from fulfilling their duties.

In May, the recreation commission hired the Joseph Furr Design Studio of Baton Rouge for $25,000 design updates for area ballparks with price estimates ranging from $1.3 million to $3.5 million.

However, the boards did not discuss updating the fields during Thursday’s meeting but instead talked about budgeting concerns.

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Commission chairman Jimmy Ware said an inter-local agreement setting financial obligations for both Natchez and Adams County was not upheld over the years.

The agreement said the Board of Aldermen would allocate $550,000 each year, the Board of Supervisors to allocate $334,000 and both boards would each hold an additional $100,000 for capital improvements as needed.

Ware said the city later pulled out funding for the Duncan Park tennis court and ballparks.

Further, the recreation commission — comprised of nine volunteer members appointed by each of the governing boards represented — could not gather a quorum to conduct business from November to May and bills from the Natchez YMCA were not paid during those months, Ware said.

The YMCA pulled out of its duties to manage sports activities and the community pool near Natchez High School once their contract with the recreation commission ended in March, so the commission hired Fay Minor to serve as sports and programs director and to manage the pool.

“Now that we’ve hired Fay Minor as our interim director, we wanted to see where the city county and school board were with our inter-local agreement,” Ware said during Thursday’s meeting. “We need to be sure we have all of our finances together.”

Adams County Attorney Scott Slover — who also served as the attorney for the Recreation Commission — said the City of Natchez had missed approximately $40,000 worth of payments to the YMCA according to reports from the commission’s last board meeting.

“During the last recreational board meeting it was said that the city didn’t make any payments towards the Y for eight months,” Slover said. “We need to get that straightened out.”

Alderwoman Sarah Carter Smith said Thursday’s meeting was the first time she had heard that the city had missed any payments while other members of the Board of Aldermen agreed.

Ware said the recreation board, after resignations, had struggled to keep a treasurer to handle financial records and couldn’t say whether any payments were truly missed.

The recreation commission is missing two appointees — one from the school district and one from the city, Ware said. Matilda Stephens resigned as former treasurer on the board Tuesday after having served a little more than four months in the position.

“I don’t believe a board member should be held responsible for trying to handle all of the financials of the commission,” Adams County Administrator Joe Murray said during Thursday’s meeting. “It needs to be put in someone else’s hands. That’s a lot of responsibility to give to one person.”

“— And in a volunteer position it’s even more difficult,” Slover said in agreement with Murray.

Alderman Dan Dillard said he needed to see a reconciled statement of money spent on recreation.

“I’d like to see a reconciling of the money that has been paid by each body and an account of where it was expended so that we can get on the same page of where we are and get back to our agreement,” Dillard said.

Ware said the commission would piece together a budget during their next board meeting Oct. 22 to present to the other boards.