Adams County, Natchez officials hit snag with recreation agreement

Published 10:28 pm Monday, September 20, 2021

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NATCHEZ — City and county officials will meet this week to review staffing and salary expenses for the Natchez Aquatic Center and soccer fields, which is the next step in efforts to shift parks and recreation management back to the separate entities.

“We were surprised to find out in addition to the director, they have a full-time office worker,” said Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson “They also have an attorney on retainer and have hired their own accounting firm. We are only talking about the (operations of the) pool and soccer fields,” he said.

Finalizing terms for joint operation of the pool and soccer fields is the last step in efforts to dissolve a former interlocal parks agreement and return management of parks to the city and county jurisdictions.

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The city voted to void the current interlocal parks agreement as of Sept. 30, said Scott Slover, county attorney. That agreement created a nine-member commission

in charge of operation and maintenance of all city and county parks, as well as the swimming pool.

In May, Slover drafted a new interlocal agreement dealing with joint city and county operation of the swimming pool and soccer fields. The new agreement reduces the number of recreation commissioners from nine to six and limits their scope of responsibility to overseeing the pool and soccer fields.

At its Aug. 10 meeting, the city’s board of aldermen approved that agreement and sent it back to the county for approval.

“Both parties have expressed a desire to work together and split all costs (associated with operating the pool, multi-purpose building and soccer fields),” Slover said. “I think most of the expenses are fine. The question that remains is the salary of the director.”

Representatives of the county and city met last week to tie up loose ends of the new agreement but hit a snag, as the city was unaware of the number of employees hired at the swimming pool, as well as other expenditures, Gibson said.

“They don’t need an accounting firm or an attorney on retainer,” Gibson said. “Their bills should go through the county’s billing process. That’s where we are hoping this is headed.”

Supervisor Ricky Gray also expressed concern over the salary expenses.

“The salary of the pool director has to go down,” said Gray, who represents District 4. “She still getting paid as parks and recreation director and she does not work in that capacity anymore. The city didn’t even know they had an employee out there other than the director. The mayor asked the question about what is needed out there. We are trying to spend the taxpayers’ money responsibly.”

Meanwhile, Jimmy Ware, a member of the current recreation commission, presented a budget to the supervisors on Monday of $185,000, which includes the two employees at their current pay rates.

Ware spoke to the county board on Monday, telling members they need someone at the pool area at all times for security reasons.

“We’ve arrived in the mornings and had dogs and cats get in the pool area. We have had homeless people get in there. The year before last, we had a lady get in there and I had to save her,” he said. “What is a life worth? We have high school kids around there every day. We have baseball players out there all the time. Someone needs to be there. If they don’t have a full-time person there, they are going to have to pay for security.”

Ware said on average, 140 people a day use the pool during the summer months. This summer, about 60 children and 27 adults went through swimming lessons at the pool.

“We had one lady who was 64 years old take swimming lessons,” Ware said.

The full-time office worker is paid $11 per hour. The salary of the director, Fay Minor, is expected to be reduced from $60,000 currently to an as-yet-determined amount because of the reduction in the scope of responsibility of the position.

“We came to a consensus (at our meeting last week) to pay a salary to the pool director a fair market wage for operating the pool six months out of the year,” Gibson said. “I think that’s going to settle out somewhere around $30,000 a year.”

The city and county officials will meet to decide salaries and other expenditures for the pool at 9 a.m. on Thursday, he said.

“Our condition for the meeting is that we are able to see their counter on salaries and expenditures before Thursday,” Gibson said.