City saves money by contracting out inmate transport

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 28, 2010

NATCHEZ — By privatizing inmate transportation, the City of Natchez could save more than $7,300 a year.

Ward 5 Alderman Mark Fortenbery made a motion that the city enter into a contract with Natchez Transit to handle the transportation of inmate labor from Wilkinson County to Natchez for $24,480 a year.

The inmates work under the supervision of public works, doing routine maintenance in the city.

Public works Supervisor Robbie Dollar said it would also allow him to get more hours of work from the inmates.

“We currently have them four days of the week,” Dollar said. “This will give me five days a week, and we’d get more hours out of them.”

Dollar said it costs the city approximately $47,700 a year to have public works transport inmates from Wilkinson County to Natchez, plus it adds to the wear and tear of city vehicles.

In addition to the $24,480 contract with Natchez Transit, the city would have to pay three public works employees, who are certified to transport inmates, to ride with them. Currently that time is overtime pay, totaling approximately $16,000 a year and bringing the total cost of inmate transport to approximately $40,400.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis pointed out that paying the employees overtime was expensive and said the city could save even more if they could hire a retired police officer to ride with Natchez Transit twice a day.

“There is only so much you can pay a retired person,” Arceneaux-Mathis said. “This retired person would only be working two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. It would be much cheaper.”

Fortenbery said the city cannot afford to replace the 11-year old trucks that are transporting the inmates, so it would be good to get them off the highway.

In other news, Arceneaux-Mathis made a motion to privatize the grass cutting on overgrown, private properties in the city.

The motion passed unanimously, and the city will open the process to bids soon.

“I’m tired of apologizing to people,” Arceneaux-Mathis said. “I hate to see little old ladies who are cutting their grass and keeping their trees trimmed to have lots on either side of them where the grass is growing over the roof.”

Arceneaux-Mathis said the Public Works Department, which recently laid off some of its grass cutters, had plenty to do without taking on cutting private land.

Ward 4 Alderman Ernest “Tony” Fields said this is a problem every summer.

“People are unabashedly going after us about the rats and vermin that come with grass, so it is something we have to deal with,” Fields said. “I would like next summer, to look at the situation and say ‘Wow, look at the good job we have done beautifying the city everywhere.’”

City Clerk Donnie Holloway said they city would have information available by the next board meeting, Aug. 10, for potential bidders.

– Alma Russell approached the board about drainage issues on Seals Lane. Assistant City Engineer David Atkins said the grates recently came in and he hopes to start work soon.

– Eva Dunkley reported that the Sadie B. Thompson Era Reunion brought in approximately $100,000 to the city of Natchez from July 1 to July 5.