County population reportedly drops by 2,885

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 19, 2011

NATCHEZ — Adams County’s population has dropped 8 percent since 2000, according to reports supervisors say they have seen.

District 2 Supervisor Henry Watts said at Tuesday’s a supervisors meeting the county has lost 2,885 residents since the last census, making the population 31,475 based on the numbers he has seen.

Watts said he recently attended a session on redistricting at a Jackson conference, and also spoke on the phone with Rep. Sam Mims about redistricting.

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The U.S. Census Bureau has not yet publicly released county-by-county numbers.

“The question is going to be did all the districts lose 8 percent countywide,” Watts said.

Adams County Chancery Clerk Tommy O’Beirne said the justice department requires the county to redistrict if a 10-percent variance occurs among the five districts.

“If you have one district that picked up six percent and one that lost four percent you have a 10-percent variance,” O’Beirne said.

Watts the session at the Mississippi Association of Supervisors midwinter conference was given by Attorney General Tom Hood about redistricting for county attorneys. He said he attended with Board Attorney Bobby Cox.

Watts said the county has to submit a plan of action for redistricting to the justice department for approval.

“The question is who (counties) is getting to determine population loss,” Watts said.

He said counties can either hire engineers, planners or private consultants to help redraw lines.

Cox said attorneys who specialize in redistricting are also an option.

Board President Darryl Grennell said the board still cannot be sure if it will have to redistrict.

“There are a number of resources; what we have to do is wait on the numbers,” Grennell said.

Cox said it is possible the county will not have to redistrict.

District 3 Supervisor Thomas “Boo” Campbell he has found in his past experiences as a board member that the redistricting process is a lengthy one.

“(District population) is a domino effect, and they have to balance it,” Campbell said.

He said the process has taken six to eight months in the past, which is well past the March 1 qualifying deadline for November elections.

Lazarus said Adams County Election Commissioner Larry Gardner said redistricting will probably not be completed before November.

Grennell said the state has not seen its breakdown of districts and the county will probably not see its breakdown until after state legislators do.

Senate Elections Committee Chairman Terry Burton has told The Democrat Mississippi’s 2010 census numbers will be available by Feb. 7.

Also from Tuesday’s meeting:

4 Justice Court Clerk Audrey Bailey requested $18,000 in salary raises to be spread among the six justice court employees.

The request included a $3,000 annual raise per person for herself, three deputy clerks and the two judges.

Judge Charlie Vess appeared with Bailey. He said he will accept a raise if the board grants across-the-board raises, but he is not asking for one for himself.

Vess said state law mandates justice court judges be paid the same salary as the supervisors, $40,400.

However, if a county contains a casino or major traffic, Vess said the county board has the authority to grant an exception and give judges a raise.

Bailey said justice court is collecting more money from fines and fees than in the past and working with one less employee than usual.

She said she would like some of the extra money in this year’s $375,000 budget to be dispersed as raises.

She said justice court collected approximately $934,000 this year compared to $806,000 in 2009 and $868,000 in 2008.

Watts said he wanted to know how much of the collections stay in the county and how much is given to the state before deciding on raises.

The board voted unanimously to take the salary requests under advisement.

4 Road Manager Curley Jones requested to hire three employees in his department as replacements for former employees.

Two applicants applied as truck drivers and one would be hired as a grass cutter, Jones said.

“Do we need (a grass cutter) right now? Why don’t we wait until we get some grass growing,” Watts said.

Jones said hiring the grass cutter at this point would allow the employee to become familiar with the workings of the road department.

The board voted 4-1 to authorize Jones to hire the three applicants pending a background check and drug test.

Watts voted against the motion.

4 The supervisors split on a vote to purchase a $1,000 sponsorship for table at the Natchez Business and Civic League banquet on Feb. 11.

Watts and Felter voted against paying the money, but a majority vote passed a motion to sponsor a table.

“We have got to get bond rating up . . . If we’re going to do it, we have got to quit voting to pay for everything,” Watts said.

4 Watts invited veterans to attend an informational program for veterans at the Natchez Win Job Center on Col John Pitchford Parkway.

The program will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and will provide information on veterans’ benefits, a veterans clinic and job opportunities.