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Natchez aldermen sign new recreation agreement with county

NATCHEZ, Miss — Aldermen on Thursday reaffirmed their previous approval of the city-county recreation pact with hopes to fast-track the construction of a public swimming pool and eventually provide the community with more sports facilities.  By: John Mott Coffey

However, much work still remains for planning and building the pool that’s to be located at Liberty Park. There have been hopes to break ground before the end of this year.

The Natchez and Adams County boards have now approved the long-sought agreement that details the multimillion-dollar effort to build the pool and offer more recreation programs, but Mayor Butch Brown noted the management structure is not yet in place. The collaboration will be overseen by a nine-member recreation commission appointed by the city and county boards and managed by the Jackson-based YMCA.

Brown said the commission needs to be reconstituted and the YMCA needs more time to prepare for taking on the recreation duties.

However, the mayor and aldermen discussed Thursday how to get work started on building the pool and let the rest of the recreation program take shape later.

“We need to move forward,” said Alderman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, who expressed hope a ceremonial groundbreaking for the pool could take place before the upcoming holiday season.

The Board of Aldermen in September agreed to approve the agreement when fine-tuned by its attorney.

The recreation accord – which doesn’t actually take effect until Jan. 1 –specifies the action needed for building a community pool, ballfields and other sports facilities with million-dollar annual allocations the county and city combine for building and running them in the next 10 years.

It goes first with building the pool at Liberty Park using $700,000 from the county and $500,000 from the city. A soccer field is also included in this first phase. There has been no public swimming pool for the community since the city-owned Duncan Park pool closed in 2001.

While the Adams County Board of Supervisors adopted the joint agreement last month, Brown said he’s still uncertain if the county has the money in the bank for its initial share.

The agreement mandates the city and county boards to put up the $1.2 million for the pool and soccer field by Natchez High School. This is to be followed by $100,000 allocated annually by each board for other recreation construction for 10 years. For operations, the county would significantly boost its annual recreation spending to $334,000 to merge with at least $550,000 from the city to be given to the Natchez-Adams County Recreation Commission.

While a city-county recreation commission currently exists, it has little power. The agreement gives extensive authority to the newly empowered commission to take over the city’s recreation department and spend the money appropriated by the city and county boards. The commission is being tasked to work for “the improvement of the general health, entertainment and happiness of the citizens of the City of Natchez and Adams County, Mississippi,” states the agreement.

However, Brown has insisted the Duncan Park municipal golf course continue to be managed by golf pro Greg Brooking, who has a contract with the city.

The Natchez-Adams School District board is also involved in the new recreation program because it’s providing land for facilities.

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