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Natchez aldermen approve more money for pool and establish to-go drinking zone
from Staff Reports - NEWS
July 12, 2017 - ListenUpYall.com

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – The city is allocating another $225,000 to help build the long-planned community pool that’s been plagued by delays and overbudgeted construction costs.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen on Tuesday agreed to get the money from the community development funds it receives from leasing city-owned land to Magnolia Bluffs Casino.

Construction bids to build the pool have exceeded the $1 million budgeted by the Natchez Board of Aldermen and Adams County Board of Supervisors. This forced the two boards to scramble to find the additional $400,000 needed for the pool they hoped would be open by now after agreeing more than two years ago to move forward to build it.

The county board is expected to also budget its extra $200,000 needed to get the swimming pool built.

The city has already spent nearly $80,000 for pool plans and designs, according to Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell. This is the bulk of the money that the mayor and aldermen had no accounting of last month when they noticed the $500,000 they had already budgeted for the pool was down to $400,000. The expenditures were subsequently tracked down and a report was submitted to the board on Tuesday.

There’s been a “lack of communication” about how pool funds have been spent, said Alderman Sarah Carter Smith, who noted Tuesday better reporting is needed of the disbursements.

The aquatic center is to be at Liberty Park by Natchez High School, where city and county officials had a ceremonial groundbreaking more than a year ago.

Only one bid was received by the city and county boards to build the pool while five came for pool-related structures. Rotolo Consultants Inc. said it can build the pool for nearly $840,000. For the pool structures, Wilmar Construction Co. submitted the lowest and best bid: almost $666,000.

Architect Johnny Waycaster said in June that the pool could be open by spring 2018 if funding and construction move forward soon.
There has been no public swimming pool in Natchez-Adams County since the city-owned Duncan Park pool closed around 2001.

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The Board of Aldermen approved new regulations Tuesday for drinkers wanting to legally stroll downtown Natchez with booze purchased from licensed bars and restaurants.

A new Mississippi “Go Cup” law took effect July 1 to exempt Natchez from the general statewide ban against drinking outside state-licensed bars and restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages. The city board voted 4-2 for the local ordinance on how to implement it after being reviewed by the state Department of Revenue’s Alcoholic Beverage Control division.

The new “Natchez Leisure and Recreation District,” commonly known as the go-cup zone, includes much of downtown bordered by Broadway, Jefferson, Martin Luther King and Main streets and extends along Canal Street to John R. Junkin Drive.

The new regulations include requirements that bars selling to-go drinks for downtown strollers have them in plastic containers clearly marked as being from the Natchez Leisure and Recreation District. Signs will be placed throughout the downtown area warning drinkers not to stray out of the area designated for legal sidewalk imbibing. The signs will also have reminders that it’s illegal to drink and drive. A fee will be imposed on restaurants and bars in the go-cup zone to generate funds to enforce the regulations.

The board’s 4-2 vote of approval Tuesday had Aldermen Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis and Billie Joe Frazier against the go-cup regulations. Arceneaux-Mathis complained that it excludes the predominantly black area of town and gives “preferential treatment” to the white-owned downtown establishments selling alcoholic beverages.

The Board of Aldermen’s establishment of the leisure and recreation district is seen as part of the city’s strategy to attract more tourists and encourage the preservation and viable uses of old historic downtown buildings.

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Natchez’ establishment of its leisure and recreation district comes as a study is underway by consultants on how to revitalize downtown Natchez. Among the top priorities they presented Tuesday is to change city zoning restrictions enacted in 2013 that eliminate the opening of new downtown bars.

City planning consultant Phil Walker also said the city should move forward on fully restoring the old Broadway Street railroad depot, which has been on hold for a year. The city renovated the exterior in 2016 but cancelled hotelier Warren Reuther’s controversial plans to lease the building, restore the interior and use it as a tourist center.

Among the suggestions offered by Walker’s group of consultants are to convert the 107-year-old former train station into public restrooms, a coffee shop or visitors center. A raised deck by the depot overlooking the Mississippi River is another idea.

The Walker group presented a wide range of observations and suggestions for revitalizing the downtown area. “I know we’re throwing a lot of stuff at you,” Walker told a public gathering sponsored by FOR Natchez, the group that initiated the study.
The suggestions include making the city’s one-way streets two-way and moving the U.S. Post Office on Canal Street. It could be torn down and replaced by “Ellicott Hill Park and Market” in front of the historic House on Ellicott Hill, built in 1798.




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