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City of Natchez holds off on expanding convention center

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Convention Center’s management company is trying to get the funding needed for the center’s expansion, which might require the city to restructure bonds and increase taxes.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen voted Thursday to delay restructuring its bond payments for the convention center — and a possible increase to fund an expansion — until a later date, according to the Natchez Democrat.

The project would cost $4.5 million and would increase the size of the center’s exhibit hall by 40 percent, said convention center manager Walter Tipton. He said the expansion would greatly enhance the center’s ability to hold more than one function at a time.

“We could, say, have a wedding reception at the same time as a major conference,” Tipton said.

Without the expansion, Tipton said the center has been turning down profitable events every weekend due to space limitations.

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said in order for the project to move forward, the board would have to vote to send a proposal to the state Legislature. The board would have to restructure or take out additional loans, and then ask permission to raise taxes to cover the bonds.

Under the existing structure bond, the convention center debt should be paid in full by 2024.

One of the proposed plans Brown presented to the board last year included restructuring the current bond on the convention center to add 10 years and $4.5 million to pay for the project.

Alderman Tony Fields said the board needs to “get a handle on the city’s current financial situation” before taking action on the project.

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