Duplicate systems burn public money

Published 12:03 am Sunday, August 19, 2012

When politics and common sense face off — politics always wins out.

Once again the City of Natchez and Adams County are in disagreement over the city-county fire protection agreement, more precisely over how it’s funded.

The city thinks the county doesn’t pay its fair share. The county thinks it pays too much already.

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The county is considering creating its own fire districts ahead of pulling out of the agreement with the city.

The city says it’s waiting on the county to talk about the future, and is ready to reduce the fire department’s staffing levels if the county pulls out.

Both approaches appear to be shortsighted.

It’s unfair for county supervisors to use county tax money — a portion of which is paid for by residents of the city — for something that only benefits residents in unincorporated parts of the county.

Likewise, for the city to suggest it will not go to calls in the county if the county chooses to go it alone is equally unfair. They haven’t said that outright this time, but it’s always been an unspoken threat.

We’ve long been proponents of consolidating services like fire protection. The only problem is that it’s been mishandled. Insurance experts tell us it is likely homeowner’s insurance rates could be lowered with some relatively simple changes.

Perhaps what really needs to happen is for the city and county to sit down together — not continue to just talk about doing it — and agree that working together is what’s best for the public.

At the end of the day, if we were all honest about the needs, we might agree that countywide fire protection is needed. But we might also see that the county might be in the best position to manage and fund fire protection without spending tax dollars on two, duplicative fire systems.