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National Park Service takeover of Natchez visitors center a year away from happening
from Staff Reports - NEWS
July 24, 2019 - ListenUpYall.com

By John Mott Coffey
 
NATCHEZ, Miss. – City aldermen Tuesday approved the paperwork needed for giving the Natchez Visitor Reception Center to the federal government after being told of the “urgency” to complete the transaction to ensure federal funds are available to maintain it.
 
It’s been more than a year since the U.S. Congress authorized the National Park Service to take over the city-owned facility, and the state Legislature in March also approved of the transfer. However, more steps are needed for the NPS to actually own and run the center, said Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent Kathleen Bond.
 
She told the Board of Aldermen Tuesday that the NPS is still waiting for city officials to send all the various documents needed to consummate the land transaction. The board later approved providing what the NPS requested for this.

Upon receipt, it’ll still take a year or so for NPS officials to review what all’s needed to actually accept ownership of the building and land, Bond said. She noted the 22-year-old structure has about $1 million in deferred maintenance needs and expressed concerns federal funds for it could get nudged out by other new National Park Service properties. She pointed to the “urgency” of completing the Natchez visitors center transfer as soon as possible, or “it may not happen.”

City board members acknowledged the need to push the process forward. “We all understand that federal funds can evaporate overnight,” said Alderman Dan Dillard.

Mayor Darryl Grennell and the Board of Aldermen have struggled financially in recent years to maintain the tourism center. They’ve been wanting to donate it to state or federal governments, which have been sharing with the city the expenses of operating and maintaining the facility built in 1997 for Natchez.
 
Located by the Mississippi River bridges, the center was constructed with about $8 million in mostly federal funds to be the hub of the city’s tourism sector. It’s only had piecemeal repairs in past years. A variety of repairs and upgrades are needed to refurbish for the 25,000-square-foot structure.

About $45,000 has been earmarked by the Natchez Board of Aldermen the past two years for its repairs and maintenance, according to the city budget. Another $24,000 was appropriated for grounds maintenance.



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