Supervisors grapple over policy for renting out Chester Willis Field

Published 3:46 pm Friday, March 8, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Confusion seemed to reign Friday morning as to whether Alcorn State University had permission to play baseball this weekend at the newly renovated Chester Willis Field at Liberty Park.

At Monday’s meeting of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, administrative assistant Corvet McNeal informed the supervisors that a member of the Natchez High School baseball staff had granted permission for Alcorn to play baseball at Chester Willis today and Saturday, as well as next weekend.

Unfortunately, that’s not how the field should be reserved.

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While Alcorn has cancelled its baseball games for this weekend due to weather concerns, supervisors came out of recess Friday morning to meet about rental fees and to nail down a process for reserving the field. All supervisors with the exception of District 2 Supervisor Kevin Wilson attended the meeting.

In the end, supervisors decided they needed more time to research and to decide on fair rental fees for the field.

Supervisors said McNeal, who handles the scheduling and rental of all county property, such as other parks and the Safe Room, should handle scheduling and rental at Chester Willis Field, too.

The renovation of the historic field represents a $2.2 million investment on behalf of the county to day. The issue of restrooms and locker rooms still need to be addressed.

It opened for play about two weeks ago when Cathedral School and Natchez High, both of which play their home games on the field, met to play each other.

However, a number of punch list items remain to be completed, and the question of field drainage is getting its first test with Friday’s downpour.

District 5 Supervisor Warren Gaines said he visited the field during the rain before Friday morning’s meeting and “lots of work needs to be done. Before we start issuing the park out. We have a lot of places not on grade. I just rode by there. I can see just from my eyes in terms of the field and drainage, lots of work needs to be done. We don’t need to put the horse before the cart.”

At the board’s request, county attorney Scott Slover put together a recommended field rental schedule, which included a refundable deposit to cover clean up, a fee for use of electricity at the field, and a rental fee.

In the end, supervisors said they felt that was too complex and that they needed something simpler.

Supervisors also discussed charging Cathedral and Natchez High for their play on the fields, but in the end, no decisions were made as to an amount or policy.