School bond hearing moved to Feb. 15

Published 10:30 am Monday, January 29, 2018

NATCHEZ — The full hearing for the validation $34 million school bond issue has been moved to Feb. 15, after a quick initial hearing Monday morning.

Judge E. Vincent Davis presided over the 11-minute Monday meeting of the court, in which he said Mississippi statute dictates that a second hearing date be said in the case of objections to a bond issue.

“Had there not been objections filed, the court could proceed today,” Davis said. “But we have a number of objections.”

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The unofficial count of objections wavered around 450 Friday, with still a stack several inches high of letters yet unfiled.

A chancery clerk worked Saturday and Sunday to finish filing the objections, of which there were approximately 300 for each of the two bond issues.

All told, the residents of Adams County filed just under 1,000 objections to the Natchez-Adams School District borrowing of $9 million and a lease agreement which would afford the district approximately $25 million.

In the event of objections, Mississippi Code Title 31 states that the chancellor “shall set the case over for another day.”

Further complicating the continuance of the hearing, Davis said, was the fact that legal representation for objector Kevin Wilson could not be in Natchez on Monday, but was detained outside of the state.

Paul Koerber, Wilson’s attorney, and the school district’s bond attorney Tony Gaylor agreed on a date for the new hearing prior to the Monday meeting.

At 9 a.m. on Feb. 15, the court will convene to hear objections to the $9 million bond issue. At 1 p.m. that same day, the court will reconvene to hear objections to the $25 million lease agreement.

Davis announced these times to the court, in which approximately 30 residents and school board members had gathered, and adjourned.

Several of the residents left the courtroom muttering, talking among themselves.

“This is just ridiculous,” said Gene Simonton, who submitted an objection to both bond issues. “I wanted them to throw it out, or at least let the supreme court take it.”

Others, however, said they knew what was coming when they entered the courtroom at 9 a.m. Monday morning.

“Exactly what happened — that’s what I thought would happen,” Mary Woods said. “I knew they’d have to set another date. It’s the law.”

Fred Butcher, superintendent of the Natchez-Adams School District, said he was not sure what action would be taken when he arrived at the courthouse, but that he was not surprised at the outcome.

“The other lawyer couldn’t make it, and it’s the law, so (changing the date) makes sense,” Butcher said.

For Brown, the delayed date will not stop her from attending the hearing.

“If I’m still breathing,” she said, “I’ll be there.”