Cooperation vital for fire agreement

Published 12:12am Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Adams County supervisors have within their power the ability to get out of the fiery mess they’ve helped create with the ever-complicated city-county fire protection agreement.

We’ve watched the fire drill play out for years. The city wants more money from the county to reimburse the costs of sending city fire crews to fires in the county.

The county believes they already pay too much and have, at times, proposed that the county can simply fight fires with volunteer forces.

The issue pops up practically every budget season.

Last year, a compromise was made in which the city would not seek as much additional funds from the county in exchange for some concessions from the county. The county promised to lower the number of non-emergency fire calls — grass fires and the like — to which city crews would respond and also provide the city with a new fire truck.

This past week, while trying to sort out its obligations to the city, the county stumbled upon a potential problem. County leaders feel that 911 dispatchers are sending city fire crews all the time, when volunteer fire crews could respond instead.

While that’s an option, the fact is when fire crews are called; lives and property are at risk. At that point, no one cares what name is on the side of the fire truck.

Rapid, professional response is top priority.

The dispatching matter is made worse by the apparent lack of coordination between the combined central dispatching with E911 and the City of Natchez’s police and fire crews and the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. We need a single dispatching center. Period.

Further, the city and county need to explore how taxpayer money — collected from city and county residents — could be better spent through consolidating more services.

We’ve long thought the city could take on full county fire protection in exchange for the sheriff’s office taking on full city-county law enforcement.

Of course, that would require communication and cooperation — something desperately needed in local government.