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County supervisors wrestle with Natchez-Adams County Port budget
from Staff Reports - NEWS
October 2, 2018 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – Adams County supervisors approved the $2 million budget for the Natchez-Adams County Port – albeit tardy and with some opposition Monday.

The county board ratified the port’s budget with a 3-2 vote. Without supervisors’ OK, the port could not legally spend money in the fiscal year that began Monday.
The government-operated Mississippi River port is a key service for Natchez-Adams County industries.

Port Director Anthony Hauer said the new budget estimates $2.1 million in revenues for the coming year. That’s a reduction from the past 12 months, which saw less demand than expected for port services, he said. Hauer noted oil-related industries account for some of the decline.

While the new budget envisions less revenues for the coming year, Hauer said he’s hopeful business will pick up at the river port. “We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we have favorable indications that it will generate the same revenues and possibly more,” he said.

While Adams County Supervisor Ricky Gray favored the budget’s approval, he said Hauer should’ve presented it to the county board before the day of the fiscal year’s official beginning.

Voting against the port budget’s approval were county supervisors David Carter and Mike Lazarus. They expressed concerns about the port’s spending practices, such as pay raises for its employees.

Supervisors pressed Hauer on why they should pay for insurance to cover the port’s grain silo facility. They said Hauer failed to tell them beforehand to include this in the county budget that was written last month. The county owns the port land, they said, but the storage structure is the port’s responsibility.

While the Natchez-Adams County Port is run by a commission appointed by county supervisors, it is an independent government operation. However, a frustrated Hauer said Monday that he and port officials feel “alienated” by the Board of Supervisors.

“We are Adams County, too,” he said of the port. “We’re not in this for a fight. We’re in it for all of Adams County.”

Supervisors acknowledged more cooperation and dialogue is needed between them and port officials. “We’re all in this together. If we don’t communicate, we all end up losing,” Gray said.

The river port includes two cargo docks, a liquid-transfer dock, warehouses and other facilities. Port officials also oversee the adjacent industrial park. It’s served by the Natchez Railway that connects to the Canadian National Railroad line in Brookhaven.

It was noted Monday that the U.S. Congress in September did not include funds as hoped for to continue building the levee at the county-owned Belwood industrial site by the port.

The levee’s construction is being funded and done in phases – with more than $1 million already spent for what’s there now. However, more money is needed to finish the project to protect the property from flooding. Adams County supervisors had been counting on Congress allocating additional funds for this, but the levee project was not on the list of Mississippi flood-control initiatives getting millions of federal dollars from appropriations enacted by Congress last month.

Adams County engineer Jim Marlow estimated last year $3 million to $4 million is needed to finish the Belwood levee. The Adams County board purchased the Belwood site in 1998 -- the year the same-named country club there closed -- to accommodate industries. However, it’s remained mostly vacant as supervisors failed to lure much business there. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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