Pool agreement includes salary cut

Published 3:09 pm Friday, September 24, 2021

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NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez and Adams County officials on Thursday hammered out details of an agreement to jointly operate and cover expenses of the Natchez Aquatic Center and the nearby soccer fields, both located near Liberty Park.

At a combined meeting of the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen and the Adams County Board of Supervisors, a resolution for a new interlocal agreement was approved. It calls for the present nine-member parks and recreation commission to be dissolved on Sept. 30 and the city and county to each appoint three members to a new, six-member commission which will govern the pool and soccer fields.

The new agreement also sets a salary for a pool manager at $33,512 plus benefits and retirement and $36,000 for wages for any other seasonal personnel needed at the pool, such as lifeguards or clerical help, to be determined by the new pool commission.

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An original motion by aldermen was to pay a pool manager $30,000 per year plus benefits. However, Supervisor Ricky Gray presented another amount.

“The starting salary was $33,512 with no benefits. It went to $60,000 when she took over the other work (as parks and recreation director for the city and county),” Gray said. “It should go back to what it was, $33,512, with or without benefits. We were elected to do what’s right with the taxpayers’ money.”

In the end, the vote was unanimous to pay the pool manager the amount Gray suggested.

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson called the pool a valuable community asset.

“The city is happy to share in expenses and recent improvements, such as heating the pool, providing for a cover for the pool and adding lockers and the like,” he said.

The new agreement also removes paying for an attorney and an accounting firm and calls for the bills for the pool to be paid by the county and flow within the county’s current billing system.

“The city will then reimburse the county for its half,” Gibson said.

Jimmy Ware, who is a member of the current recreation commission, said he is concerned about security at the pool when no employee is on duty and other daily maintenance issues.

“There are jobs being done there now that you all don’t see,” Ware said.

Supervisor Warren Gaines also said he was concerned about security at the pool.

“It shouldn’t be left unguarded,” he said.

Alderwoman Sarah Carter Smith said several options for securing the pool exist that do not call for a person to be there at all times, like barbed or electrical wiring at the top of the fence.

Supervisor Kevin Wilson asked that City of Natchez police officers and Adams County Sheriff’s deputies step up patrols in the area of the pool, also.

Wilson also said he is concerned about the cost of heating the pool, once the heater is installed.

“People I know who have heated pools run them about two weeks until they see how much they cost. And natural gas prices have doubled in the last six months,” Wilson said.

Alderman Dan Dillard agreed. He estimated heating the pool to cost between $12,000 and $16,000 per year, an estimate that does not take into consideration recent price increases in natural gas.

The city and county are expected to name members to a new pool commission at an upcoming meeting.