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Natchez board deciding who should manage convention center
from Staff Reports - NEWS
February 13, 2018 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – Mayor Darryl Grennell and city aldermen will decide later this year on who will manage the Natchez Convention Center after they review a financial analysis of how it’s been operated by a hotel company.

While hotelier Warren Reuther boasts of large increases in Natchez convention business under his company’s management since 2007, the mayor and aldermen remain undecided if they want to seek others to run the facility. The Board of Aldermen last year got an accountant to assess how the convention center has been operated by Reuther’s company: New Orleans Hotel Consultants.

Grennell and aldermen met Monday with Reuther and members of the Natchez Convention Promotion Commission along with city tourism director Jennifer Ogden Combs. They decided to meet again later this month to discuss the financial review, which was recently completed but not made public yet. It’s expected to be released today after being formally accepted by the Board of Aldermen.

While the previous contract with the city expired last year, Reuther’s company continues to manage the convention center on a month-to-month basis. This arrangement remains until the board decides who will manage the center for the long term.

Natchez Convention Promotion Commission members – six people appointed by the aldermen – have insisted the NCPC is an autonomous municipal agency empowered to operate the convention center and hire city tourism staffers. State law also gives the commission control over the expenditure of Natchez tourism tax revenues to market the city.

While aldermen agreed last year to relinquish appointing the city’s tourism director, they retained authority to determine who manages the city-owned convention center.

Reuther owns the Natchez Grand Hotel across the street from the center on Canal and Main. He said Monday his company is better equipped than the NCPC to manage the city’s convention center and promote it. However, the mayor and aldermen in recent years have received complaints about how the convention center is being managed. The grievances include allegations that Reuther’s company steers convention-spinoff business to a few while shunning others in Natchez.

The ongoing review of the Reuther company’s management comes as Natchez tourism leaders face challenges in luring more visitors and conventions. City tourism-related sales at hotels and restaurants are down, according to the state Department of Revenue. About $861,500 in tourism taxes were generated from July to December 2017. That’s down from the $874,800 collected in the same period 2016.

Aldermen are also trying to decide who should manage the City Auditorium and Community Center. The city-owned auditorium on Jefferson and Canal streets was leased in 2013 to a church, which conducted services there and managed the facility. However, Christ Life recently vacated it after the church group and city officials quarreled over lease payments. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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