Town of Vidalia officials expect major changes in the relationship with Natchez Inc. or a new contract will not be signed.
That’s the message Mayor Buz Craft gave Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ during the regular meeting of the Vidalia Board of Aldermen Tuesday night.
Alderman Tommy Probst said he wanted changes, too.
The town’s five-year, $100,000 annual contract with the Natchez entity is coming to a close and a new contract is to be written.
Concordia’s former economic director, Heather Malone, who was employed by Natchez Inc., recently left both positions.
Craft said Malone “made the agreement with Natchez Inc work.”
But he told Russ that there has been no accountability on the part of Natchez Inc on how it spends money or promotes the town.
“We want to be promoted,” Craft said of Vidalia, adding that advertising promotions by Natchez Inc. do not include Vidalia.
He said that Vidalia “wants to be at the table for decisions,” and that, “I don’t want Chandler Russ telling me what to do.”
“I want a seat at the table,” Craft said.
Russ said he wanted to advance a new contract with the town, in which he would be in charge of hiring, but as the criticisms of the present agreement continued, he said that the “merits of the partnership should not be lost.”
Probst said he was tired of the town citizens being left in the dark about economic development and about what is happening at the two industries the town has supported economically – Vidalia Denim and Syrah Resources.
He said officials preach transparency but it isn’t being practiced.
The public is uninformed on the number employees working at Vidalia Denim, he said, nor is the public made aware of the company’s economic situation.
“Nobody knows nothing,” Probst said. “I hear it all the time.”
He said this situation is “not good for the community at all. Point made.”
Probst also said he wants a report on what is happening at the plant.
Craft said Vidalia Denim has suffered from the economic decline due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but has paid the town $1.7 million for utilities and its lease since the company began operation in late 2019.
He said even if the town “held a gun to their head they probably could not have done better.”
Craft said Natchez Inc granted an extension, which expired in July, for the company to meet its hiring promises, which it failed to do.
Russ said the $8 million grant provided the company was used for equipment, which is at the plant.
The discussion on the operation of Vidalia Denim followed questions posed by Vidalia resident Cassandra Lynch.