Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Natchez Becomes a Casino Town

I'm still in Austria, but I try to keep up by reading the Natchez Democrat online. This morning I discover that Natchez is about to become a casino town. In addition to the current casino Isle of Capri, we are going to get a new one at the foot of Roth Hill and another below the old Ramada Inn. Sure doesn't make for a Merry Christmas, does it. At least the casino under Roth Hill was the lesser of two evils.

Enjoy Natchez while you can - it will soon be changing more than you can imagine.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Good News & Bad News

I'm in Austria having a wonderful time! However, I still try to keep in touch with Natchez through the online version of the Natchez Democrat. A couple of things really caught my attention.

First the Good News (especially since it's so rare): Apparently the city and county will be contracting with U S NetworX to develop web sites. This has been a major issue wih me for quite a while. Natchez and Adams County simply cannot compete economically without an uptodate website. I have thought that was a major failing of the Economic Develop Agency, since online marketing is key to success in today's markets.

As I have mentioned before, the County is so superior to the City in the way it conducts business, and the new County Administrator Cathy Walker is exceptionally good. The Board of Supervisors decided that a new website was a priority and directed Cathy to research contractors and make recommendations. (If only the City would do such a thing!) Cathy did a thorough job of research, and I heard her presentation a few weeks ago. The Board voted to contract with US NetworX. Fortunately, the City is going to take advantage of the County's research and hire the same company.

This is the most significant economic development action taken by the City during this administration - and they probably do not even realize it.

And now for the Bad News: The Board of Aldermen gave the Mayor the right to select a Planner - BUT they specified the Planner should be certified. The Planner the Mayor chose is not certified. His choice is to be voted on at the meeting on Tuesday. I wonder if the Aldermen will stick to their guns and not approve this choice. It would be fine to keep this person on a contractual basis until a certified Planner could be found. However, it would be a major mistake to permanently hire him.

We all know how how crucial the position of Planner is to the character of Natchez. The Planner is involved in many controversial issues and must have credibility. Just think of the issues involved with the development of Roth Hill - or putting together the much needed comprehensive rezoning package.

Another piece of bad news is that the management contract for the Convention Center seems destined to happen.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


I'll be leaving Tuesday morning to go to Austria for most of the month to visit my daughter and her family. I will be attending the casino presentations Monday, but that's it. I might have time to give my thoughts about that, but probably not. This will be my last post until I return. In the meantime, you can use the Comments to communicate with each other.

As you may know, this blog is moderated. That means all comments have to be approved before they're published. We only censure for profanity, malicious gossip, and spam. All opinions - even the dumb ones - are allowed. Since I will be not be checking my email regularly while I'm gone, LadyBug will be moderating the comments. If it takes a while for your comment to publish, be patient - she's new.

By the way, we have a email now especially for this blog: FriendsoftheBluff at gmail dot com. (I wrote it like that so those nasty spam robots can't read it, but hopefully you can figure it out.)

Please don't let them ruin our riverfront while I'm gone
and have a Happy Holiday!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

CRISIS!!! Your Presence Required Monday

Oh my goodness, but it is getting downright scary! Start by reading the story in today's Democrat. Two casino companies will be making public presentations on Monday, one at 4 pm and the other at 5:30 pm. (The article didn't say where, but I presume the City Council Chambers, across from City Hall in the second block of South Pearl Street.) There are several areas of major concern.

MOST IMPORTANT. If you want to save your city, you'd better get your bootie to those presentations.

SIZE: The article says:

"The Natchez Riverfront proposal would consist of 14 structures, including a river walk, floating casino, pavilion, hotel, amphitheatre and retail stores. According to the proposal, base construction costs for the facilities, covering an area of 1,013,151 square feet, would be $88,338,780."

Do you know how big this is? This thing is going to take up the whole blanking bluff! If you go to this page of the Natchez website, you will find the City's Riverfront Development document. In there, you will find that all of the Roth Hill area is only 5.3 acres or about 231,00 square feet. That's only one fourth of the million feet. Where is the rest of this project going? Are they maybe going to take the Pecan Factory? That's only about another 170,000 square feet. Is the hotel developer in cahoots with them? Are they including the Cock of the Walk? Still not enough land.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think they're about to give away your entire riverfront.


Yesterday there were two anonymous comments on this blog that tell us. What someone did was look up the Natchez Riverfront Development Group in the Secretary of State's business search. This Limited Liability Group (which probably means the taxpayers are liable if they screw up) was formed on November 14, which was just 2 days before the bids were due. At the same time, they formed the Natchez Gaming Development Group. There are two managers: Tony Gaylor and Willie J Mott. Interesting fellows.

According to that comment, Tony Gaylor, formerly of Natchez, was an attorney brought in to handle the Convention Center bond refinancing. That was where they presented the city with a giant mock check for $400,000 representing the money the city saved, the group invited the Mayor & Aldermen out to an elaborate dinner at Dunleith, and then, oops, discovered the savings wasn't quite that much. So sorry!

Also according to that comment, Willie J Mott was fired from the Jackson Development Authority, which was in charge of the Farish Street Historic Development Project. I was able to verify that he was the JDA Executive Director. It's widely accepted that the Farish Street Project has been a disaster, and he was in charge of it. Not a good sign. I could not verify if or when he was fired, but he doesn't seem to be at JDA anymore.

What about the other group? Here's what the Democrat said:

"The Lane Company proposal, includes a floating casino, landing, esplanade and botanical gardens at a cost of $48,106,169. The casino and park grand opening would be in January 2007."
Yikes, that's a month away. I guess they'll just pull up a casino, throw out some flowers and call it a garden, and have a grand opening. However, I don't think they're going to be awarded the project, and here's why.

Remember when Aldermen Gray and Mathis stormed out of a secret meeting? The story was that David Gardner presented a casino proposal in that meeting. (By the way, he is the contact on the Riverfront Development Plan on the City's website, which is why he was presenting it,) The proposal was about to be accepted by a vote of 3-2, because Alderman West was absent. I think that was the Lane Company proposal. The City then sent it out for bid. That bid was dated October 24 and said:

"REQUESTS FOR PROPOSAL. Notice is hereby given that the City of Natchez, Mississippi is Requesting Proposals for the Lease or Purchase and Development of the Roth Hill Road Site until 5 pm on November 16 2006."
Obviously, with only 3 weeks, there were not going to be any bids except by those in the know. You can't put together a decent proposal in that amount of time. So the black aldermen brought in their own proposal by their buddies. If everyone is there, they have the votes, and they'll win. The only issue yet to be resolved is whether the 3 white Aldermen will go along, so we can have another unanimous vote to screw the citizens.

SELLING THE RIVERFRONT? Please note that the RFP says "Lease or Purchase". So these so called leaders are probably going to sell our riverfront.

PS. There's supposed to be a Top of the Morning in the Democrat tomorrow about the possibilities offered by the Trust for Public Land. Read it and weep. We'll lose this wonderful opportunity when the casino takes over the bluffs.

UPDATE. There is a correction in the paper that is not available online.

"Information cited in a Saturday story about two proposed casino developments was copied as written in the proposals released by the city. Upon further review, some numbers - including the total square footage of the Natchez Riverfront Development Groups's proposal - do not add up. The proposal lists 1,013,151 square feet as the total for the for the project, with 81,000 square feet being offshore facilities. However, adding up the numbers on the four phases equals 932,151 square feet. In the Lane Company proposal, a timeline lists January 2007 as the casino's grand opening: however, it appears that date is a typographical error, since a timeline included in the proposal lists several construction phases after that date. The Democrat will continue researching the proposals and provide accurate information about the proposals."

Casinos that can't get their numbers right - how reassuring!