Letters to the Editor

Send your letters to missloumagazine@peoplepc.com. Letters can be sent by postal mail to Miss-Lou Magazine/Natchez Sun, 4835 Bonita Beach Road, Unit 505, Bonita Springs, FL 34134. Anonymous letters will not be printed. Please include your name, address and phone number for verification.

Stewpot in Urgent Need of Canned Vegetables

Dear Sirs:

Please help feed the hungry in our community.

 

The Stewpot is very low on vegetables. It takes 9 large cans to prepare the 300 meals that we serve every day. Please consider getting together with your family, classmates, group, club, or Sunday school class to collect enough cans for one day or one week.   

 

Any amount will be appreciated. Vegetables can be delivered to the Stewpot Monday to Saturday from 7:30 am to 2:00 pm. Thank you!

 

Stewpot address: 69 East Franklin Street


Amanda Jeansonne, Natchez

City Ignores Statute Responsibilities

Dear Mayor Grennell and Alderpersons:

Pretty soon, we will be coming up on 10 years’ operation of the taxpayer-owned Natchez Convention Center by the third party contractor.

From my review of the Minute Books of the City and the Finance Committee minutes, I can find no audits of the convention center, no performance reporting, no financial numbers or details, no review of possible unlawful tying arrangements, no review of contract compliance, no review of public bid law compliance, no review of preferences to local vendors, no reports on or for NCC requests for deviation from contract terms, no review of private contract operator’s bank records.

In short, for 10 years, there has been no apparent oversight by the City of Natchez of NCC operations, either during the initial five year contract, nor after that contract expired when the NCPC contract expired and resumed its control over the facility under the state legislation.

Here is a list of the NatchezConvention Center contract clauses that the City has failed to address, based on its minute books:

1) Proof of preference given to local vendors, Art. 3, Section 3.3;

2) Annual approved financial plans, Sections 3.3.1 and 3.3.4;

3) Rental forms approved by City, Section 3.3.2;

4) Proof of caterers approved by City, Section 3.3.5;

5) Accounting for tickets and ticket revenues, Section 3.3.11;

6) Licenses and permits, Section 3.3.13;

7) Bank records of New Orleans Hotel Consultants, LLC, Section 3.3.14;

8) Proof of adherence to City property inventory controls, Section 3.3.18;

9) Business plans - required annual updates. I note that the now expired contract says, these plans are to "serve as a management blueprint to monitor Consultant's performance", Section 3.6;

10) Proof of City authority for leased space in convention center, Section 3.9;

11) Annual business and financial projections with projected revenues and expenses, Section 4.1;

12) True and correct Financial Statements, with any detail requested by city auditor, Section 4.3;

13) Variable Operations Fee, Section 5.2;

14) Accounting Records and City Access, Section 8.4. I note that while there is a 3 year limit on these records set forth in the expired contract, the expired contract also declares, in Article 1, that the consultant, New Orleans Hotel Consultants, LLC, is a fiduciary to the City, the highest legal standard under general law, which prohibits any self-dealing, and required all things to be done for the benefit of the City.

15) Operating Expenses are defined in Exhibit "C" – no reports found.

The City minute books do contain what I classify as “Blue Sky” reports, usually delivered by Walter Tipton, that talk about who has come, who is coming, and “projections” of expenditures and tax collections based not on results but formulas supplied by state agencies. It is noteworthy that many if not most of the conventions are MS public bodies that do not, as far as I can tell, pay the taxes that we need to fund City operations. It appears that Natchez continues to enjoy being a host, and the life of the party, but with no benefit to the City or its taxpayers.

Former long term city attorney Walter Brown stated (I am here paraphrasing) at the council meeting in July that “we (City) tried to run the convention center ourselves, and could not do it”. Thus was born the privatization of management of the NCC. I do not oppose privatization of functions that the City cannot perform, and in fact, I encourage the City to contract with the YMCA to run all recreation and parks activities and get completely out of any management of any public property other than those who house actually required city operations.

Like the North Fire Station, Duncan Park/Auburn, Splash Pad, and countless other City-owned properties, the City just does not seem able to manage City-owned property, including the NCC, and the other properties under the NCPC umbrella.

However, in this particular case, the City of Natchez has delegated operations to a third party without a written agreement in place, and does not appear, from its own records, to have even tried to demand the required reports under the expired contract in order to put itself into a position to even evaluate the performance of the third party contractor.

The current Administration has had over a year to gather the information set out above and has not done so to date, based on its own records. It is currently negotiating with a separate governmental entity, the Natchez Convention Promotion Commission (NCPC), which seeks to take over the hiring and firing of personnel and manage the public properties at issue, but I cannot see any progress by the City in the meantime evaluating the performance of the current contractor, since the City has not done what it obligated itself to do under the expired contracts, as outlined above.

When will the City get into the books of the third party contractor and taxpayers be given a status report on NatchezC onvention Center operations for the past ten years?

Paul Benoist, Natchez

Southern Pine Beetle Epidemic

Dear Sirs:

The U.S. Forest Service announced today that it has established an Incident Management Team to direct efforts to suppress southern pine beetle infestations that threaten to damage tens of thousands of acres of pine forests in Mississippi.

Forest Health officials have classified the level of infestations as a severe outbreak. “This outbreak is unprecedented in scope with beetle activity progressing at breakneck speed with infestations rapidly escalating in size, coalescing, and decimating whole plantations,” said Jim Meeker, an entomologist with the Forest Service.

Recent surveys conducted by flights and on the ground found more than 3,500 spots of infestation by southern pine beetles on the Homochitto Ranger District (southwest Mississippi), Bienville Ranger District (central Mississippi), Tombigbee Ranger District and the Holly Springs Ranger District (both in north Mississippi).

“We have put together a dedicated team of professionals to manage our beetle suppression and resource protection efforts as an incident. This approach provides an increased focus and additional resources as we work to protect resources on public and private forest lands,” said National Forests in Mississippi Forest Supervisor Gretta Boley. “We are working very closely with our state partner, the Mississippi Forestry Commission.”

The southern pine beetle, a native insect, is the most destructive forest pest in the South, both in economic and ecological impacts. In the absence of southern pine beetle suppression, large-scale pine mortality occurs, destroying endangered species habitat, recreation opportunities, timber, and other property values.

The southern pine beetle is a cyclical outbreak species, which becomes an area-wide and aggressive tree-killer during outbreaks.  Scientists believe there are several reasons for this severe outbreak

--- recent unseasonably mild winters and excessively dry, drought conditions in the summers and falls,

--- an abundance of moderate to high density pine stands, including more than 100,000 acres of unthinned loblolly and shortleaf stands that are highly susceptible to infestation by the insect, and

--- the inability to complete effective suppression activities in previous years.  

Staff from the National Forests in Mississippi and the Mississippi Forestry Commission are working closely with the incident management team. “We are working with and reaching out to private landowners who have questions or need assistance related to the southern pine beetle outbreaks,” said Mississippi State Forester Charlie Morgan. “We continue to work with and support our federal partner, the National Forests in Mississippi, in responding to the southern pine beetle outbreaks.”

“Our crews are working very hard in some extreme conditions including rough terrain and excessive heat,” Boley added. “They are doing an excellent job. Carrying out our work safely is of the utmost importance.”

Ground saturation, including frequent pop-up showers, has also created a significant challenge to suppression efforts. Because of the amount of recent and continued rain fall, logging crews have limited ability at this time to operate heavy equipment.

Forest workers are cutting infested trees to suppress the spread of the beetles and protect resources. Cutting trees helps prevent spot growth by disrupting the beetle pheromone communication system and thus their ability to effectively aggregate and mass attack new pine trees. It is generally thought that most southern pine beetles die before they can colonize trees in a new spot, particularly in the summer when survival outside of the tree is short.

Foresters generally use one of two suppression methods: cut and remove or cut and leave.

Cut and remove is the preferred and most effective suppression tactic because it eliminates all the beetle and their pheromone odors from the forest. Because of the markets and weather, cut and remove has not been available as an option. While less effective, cut and leave – a method that leaves the cut tree in the forest – is the primary suppression tactic at this time.

For more information about southern pine beetles, go to www.mfc.ms.gov/SPB-Prevention.

Mario Rossilli, Public Affairs Staff Officer

U.S. Forest Service, Jackson

 

 

Legislation Would Inprove Wildlife and Recreation

Dear Sirs:

Wildlife Mississippi has recently voiced its support for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works’ (EPW) passage of S. 1514, the Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation Act, or HELP for Wildlife Act. U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) is a member of the committee. The bipartisan bill, which includes a range of provisions designed to improve the management of fish, wildlife, habitat and outdoor recreation, passed by a 14-7 margin.

This is a truly bipartisan bill that would reauthorize important conservation programs, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. It would establish a National Fish Habitat Conservation Act to conserve fish and fish habitat through partnerships that enhance fish and wildlife-dependent recreation.

HELP for Wildlife would provide funding and support for the construction and expansion of public target ranges on national forests. Public ranges are in short supply in many areas and this bill would help meet the increasing demand for safe places to shoot. In addition, expanded recreational shooting infrastructure will help generate additional conservation revenue by facilitating shooting sports activities that are fundamentally linked to dedicated excise taxes on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment.

HELP for Wildlife makes sure normal agricultural practices are not mis-characterized as otherwise prohibited attempts to bait migratory game birds. It also exempts lead sport fishing equipment from regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Now passed out of committee, the HELP for Wildlife Act next moves to the floor of the U.S. Senate to be voted on by the full Senate at a later date.

James L. Cummins, Wildlife Mississippi, Stoneville