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Congress passes bill to transfer Natchez visitor center to federal government
from Staff Reports - NEWS
March 27, 2018 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – President Trump signed legislation last week that includes language for the federal government to take over the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.

The Natchez mayor and Board of Aldermen have struggled financially in recent years to maintain the city-owned facility and sought to transfer it to state or federal governments.

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s office announced that the budget bill approved by Trump on Friday has a provision “to expedite the transfer” of the visitors center to the National Park Service, the agency that oversees the Natchez National Historical Park. The park has administrative offices and a book store/gift shop in the visitors center. The Natchez tourism facility also functions as an official state welcome center for Mississippi.

Located by the Mississippi River bridges, the center was constructed in 1997 with about $8 million in mostly federal funds to be the hub of the city’s tourism sector. It’s only had piecemeal repairs and now needs to be refurbished. A report presented to the Board of Aldermen in 2016 estimated more than $600,000 worth of work is needed for the 25,000-square-foot structure.

It’s uncertain how and when the visitors center will be transferred to the federal government and to what extent it will make structural improvements. City officials provided no answers to e-mailed questions about the details. Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent Kathleen Bond said Monday she was seeking information from NPS administrators about the federal legislation.

The measure to transfer the visitor center to the federal government was embedded in the appropriations bill the U.S. Congress passed last week to complete the funding of the federal government for 2018. This was Cochran’s final vote as a senator. He’s retiring April 1 after representing Mississippi for 38 years in the Senate.

“I’m pleased to finish my career with the enactment of an appropriations bill,” said the 80-year-old lawmaker, who’s been chairing the Senate Appropriations Committee since 2015. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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