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City should put pool upgrades project on hold

We have all heard the common adage, “The only thing certain in uncertain times is uncertainty.”

Those words ring more true than ever as local communities grapple with the after effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying lockdown of the economy.

In this time of insecurity, we depend on local leaders to make sound decisions that will have a lasting impact on the future of the community.

Last month, the Natchez board of aldermen made such a decision when they placed a hiring freeze on all departments except the Natchez police and fire departments.

The aldermen also made a commitment to avoid any unnecessary travel, contracts or purchases until they have a clearer picture of how the pandemic will impact the city’s budget.

We commend the board for making such a wise move. One month later, the board voted unanimously this week to continue with plans to make improvements to the local swimming pool — seeking bids for a general contractor to heat and cover the pool and build lockers and showers for swim teams.

The city and the county have committed to fund approximately $70,000 each for the project, in addition to grant money provided by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

We suggest that committing $70,000 for the project when the economic future of the city is uncertain doesn’t make sense.

Heating the pool and building locker rooms feels like a luxury when cities throughout the nation are cutting jobs and furloughing employees to make ends meet.

The city is certain to take a hit when sales tax numbers and collections from tourism taxes in April and May are revealed. How much of a hit is anyone’s guess.

In our view, city leaders should consider putting the project on hold until they understand the full impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the city’s coffers.