Supervisors approve port budget on split vote

Published 6:07 pm Thursday, October 8, 2020

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors approved a budget for the Natchez-Adams County Port in a special-called meeting Wednesday.

The 2020-2021 fiscal year budget for the port was passed by a vote of 3-2 with supervisors Wes Middleton and Kevin Wilson voting ‘nay.’

The port’s budget is set by members of the Natchez-Adams County Port Commission — who are appointed by the Adams County Board of Supervisors — and is sustained by the operations of the barge-loading facility.

Adams County Attorney Scott Slover said in Monday’s meeting the budget can either be approved or disapproved by the Board of Supervisors. However, individual line items of the port’s budget can only be changed by the Natchez-Adams County Port Commission, he said.

Port Director Anthony Hauer said the port had been working on infrastructure and making “wear and tear” repairs to equipment and pilings.

The budget reflects that the port is breaking even between revenue and expenses, which Wilson said “doesn’t seem like a very good business model” on Monday.

Supervisor Angela Hutchins said she did not agree with approving the budget Monday because it initially included pay raises for port employees in a pandemic year.

Hutchins said the supervisors could not give pay raises to county employees because of COVID-19 and it did not seem fair to give raises to the port employees.

Hutchins voted yes in Wednesday’s meeting after the raises were removed from the new budget.

However, Middleton said the port’s overall expenses remained unchanged even though the raises were removed.

“I don’t understand what changed,” Middleton said of the budget, to which Wilson agreed.

In other matters during Wednesday’s special-called meeting of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, the board:

  • Unanimously approved checks for the Adams County Sheriff’s Office for $184 to transfer a fugitive from an agency in North Dakota to Adams County.
  • Unanimously approved renting a room of the Natchez Convention Center for a jury trial under the direction of County Court Judge Walt Brown.
  • Members of the Adams County Board of Supervisors spoke out against the formation of a “minuteman group” announced Monday by an Adams County resident.

Jack Blaney, who announced to the board Monday that the group would meet bi-monthly in the Kingston area, said the group’s purpose is to train civilians to assist law enforcement in safeguarding their communities.

Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said after Monday’s meeting that the group’s purpose could be misconstrued and could cause agitators and other groups to come to Adams County from other parts of the country to “wreak havoc” in the community.

“I stand along with the sheriff,” Supervisor Ricky Gray said in Wednesday’s meeting. “… We don’t need individuals trying to play like they’re the police.”

Supervisor Warren Gaines said the group could draw negative attention to the area.

“We are a community that is trying to come together. We’re already south of I-20. Hurricanes have people nervous about coming here … That kind of negative attention will hurt our community as a whole, not just one person or two people. It would deter jobs and opportunities for other people,” Gaines said.

Hutchins said Adams County is a peaceful community.

“We have a peaceful community and that is what we want to keep is a peaceful community,” Hutchins said. “We’ve got people moving away as it is and we don’t want anyone else to move out of our community because of something like this.”

In a phone interview after the meeting, Supervisor Kevin Wilson said he was against militia-type groups.

“We have a strong police department and sheriff’s department. … Everyone will protect their homes and property. We don’t need a militia,” Wilson said.