Fire ratings topic of discussionPublished 12:06am Friday, September 14, 2012
NATCHEZ — Adams County officials will meet with residents concerned about how the new county fire protection plan will affect their fire ratings next week.airport
The meeting, which will be 6 p.m. Thursday, is tentatively scheduled to be in the Adams County Chancery Courtroom.
Adams County Supervisor Calvin Butler said state fire and insurance officials would be at the meeting.
“They want people to understand about their fire ratings, the impact the new county fire stations will have on those county residents,” Butler said. “We will also be getting some input from the state fire chief on how we need to staff our places.”
Adams County Fire Coordinator Stan Owens said the long-term goal of the fire plan is to get a fire rating of 8 for the entire county.
Fire ratings range from one to 10, with one being the best. The fire rating within the city limits is currently five, while in the county — with the exception of the Kingston area — it is a 10. The Kingston area’s rating is nine.
“The state insurance agency sets the rating, and the insurance company can write a policy for whatever rating they want as long as it does not go above the state rating,” Owens said.
“If anyone has an issue with their policies going up, they need to contact the Mississippi Insurance Commission.”
The supervisors decided to advertise for 12 fire men and an assistant fire coordinator Wednesday after the county and the City of Natchez were not able to come to final terms for the annual fire protection agreement the two governments have had since the mid 1990s. Under that agreement, the Natchez Fire Department responded to fire calls in the county.
Now, the county is working from a base plan that will in the short term staff the Kingston and Foster Mound fire departments and in the long term see the construction of a six-man station in the Beau Pré area.
Thursday, the supervisors expressed concern that the Natchez-Adams County port would not be covered should a fire break out, and the supervisors discussed the possibility of using the county-owned Pickett building near the port to house a station. Supervisor Mike Lazarus said he had spoken to port director Anthony Hauer about the possibility of placing a fire truck in the port area in the short term, a setup Lazarus said would be similar to the volunteer fire department located at the Natchez-Adams County Airport.
Owens said that ultimately the best arrangement for the port area would be for a three-man firehouse, which could also cover the Cloverdale area.
Supervisor David Carter said a contractor would be looking at the Kingston fire department in the near future to determine what would need to be done to staff it around the clock, and Owens said the building was ready to go as soon as a few renovations were complete.
Owens also said that, though the county has not officially advertised for the firefighter positions, he began receiving calls Thursday morning and had two people inquire at his office.
The pay the county is offering for the six firefighters they are looking to hire is $29,120 annually, while the pay for the six officers they plan to hire will be $35,360 a year. The assistant fire coordinator — who will eventually become the fire coordinator — will be paid $40,000 a year. All positions will receive benefits.
Owens said he had erroneously told the supervisors that firefighters and officers would make $14 and $17 an hour respectively, but those numbers had been based on a 40-hour workweek. Under federal labor laws, fire fighters may work 53 hours before overtime is applicable.
On a 53-hour workweek, firefighters would make approximately $10.56 an hour, and officers would make approximately $12.83 an hour.
Owens said a priority would be to hire the assistant fire coordinator before making the rest of the hires.
“I am going to sit down with that assistant and go through the resumes, and we are going to pick the people who can work best with the county,” he said.
Supervisor David Carter said he was pursuing what aid the county could receive from the Mississippi Forestry Commission to fight wildfires, and Owens said the MFC had stopped providing such aid to Adams County in recent years because the NFD had not been reporting wildfires to which it responded to the forestry commission.
The supervisors also agreed to invite Natchez officials to a meeting they will have next week so the city can be informed about what the county is doing.