City OKs new EDA plan

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 26, 2010

NATCHEZ — A new economic development entity is one step closer to reality.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Monday night to sign a resolution requesting the current Economic Development Authority be dissolved in favor of a newly structured entity suggested by Boyette Strategic Advisors called Natchez, Inc.

The plan calls for funding from the board of aldermen, the board of supervisors and the private business community. The plan recommends the board of aldermen contribute $100,000 annually, with the board of supervisors adding $165,000 and the private sector contributing a minimum of $115,000

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Local businessman Benny Jeansonne presented the board of aldermen with a report from the fundraising arm of the new entity, Natchez Now, detailing the efforts of the business community to raise money.

Jeansonne said Natchez Now has already received commitments of $133,000 each year for the next three years. Jeansonne said the group already has more than $100,000 in checks from businesses that have pledged their support.

“I feel sure we will collect more commitments, and I expect it to be closer to $150,000 in pledges,” Jeansonne said. “What this says is the Natchez business community is ready to start doing something with economic development.”

The resolution, presented by City Attorney Everett Sanders, allows the city to fund Natchez, Inc., either by millage or allocation and also transfers any funds, equipment, furnishings or property belonging to the Natchez-Adams Economic Development Authority to Natchez, Inc.

The current EDA has to be dissolved by the state legislature to open the door for the new economic development organization.

The resolution mirrors the resolution signed by the board of supervisors last week, Sanders said.

Alderman Ricky Gray voiced support for the new structure but said he was worried that the resolution was being signed before bylaws were presented and adopted for Natchez, Inc.

“It is a concern of mine that we are doing a lot of stuff up front before we get to read a set of bylaws,” he said. “Once we vote on this, the bylaws could then say anything.

“This is nothing negative, but you usually get bylaws before you get all this other stuff.”

Gray said he believes the process has been hurried by a need to get legislative approval to replace the current EDA.

In other news:

Sabrena Bartley, director of the Natchez Senior Citizen Center requested permission to apply for four grants to fund the senior center and the Natchez Transit Authority.

She also asked for authorization to have a public hearing on the funding and for authorization to have the mayor and city attorney sign all necessary paperwork pertaining to the grant applications.

Bartley said the grants are matching grants, but the matches required were already in her approved budget.

The board approved all of Bartley’s requests unanimously.

David Gardner said he was given permission from the Mississippi Department of Transportation to move forward with the Union Street overlay project.

The Union Street overlay is a $602,000 project financed by the city’s federal urban aid fund. W.E. Blain & Sons’ bid for the project is $599,902.

The city accepted the bid at the Dec. 22 meeting, but MDOT approval was needed before the project could start.

Alderman Bob Pollard reported the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau was looking into the possibility of erecting a portable ice skating rink in Natchez. Pollard said the CVB is using Marshall, Texas, as a guide for the process.

“Marshall, Texas, makes $100,000 in six weeks every year,” he said. “(The CVB) is taking a close look at this.”

Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis requested the city lobby for funds for the completion of the north Natchez drainage project, the Marblestone-West Stiers Lane project and recreation. Alderman Dan Dillard added that the city should seek to have State Transportation Improvement Project funds from MDOT reinstated.

The board voted unanimously to appoint Bradley Harrison to the Natchez Preservation Commission. Harrison fills the spot left vacant when Aradia Sims announced her resignation in December.

The board agreed to appoint Michael Blain, Tate Hobdy and Willie Woods to the nine-person recreation commission.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors and the Natchez-Adams School Board will also appoint three members to the commission.

The recreation commission, once fully formed, is to formulate a plan to fund a recreation complex for Adams County.