New fire agreement doesn’t leave gap in county protection

Published 12:10 am Saturday, September 29, 2012

NATCHEZ — At midnight Sunday, Adams County’s fire protection agreement with the City of Natchez will expire. A new agreement is not yet fully in place.

But that doesn’t mean that fire crews are going to stop at the city limits and watch houses on the other side of the line burn.

“In the academic sense, there might be a few hours where the interlocal agreement is not in place, but that is just an academic issue,” Natchez City Attorney Hyde Carby said. “The (city and county) boards have to meet to act, but if somebody’s house catches on fire we are going to go out there.”

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Adams County Board of Supervisors Attorney Scott Slover said it’s not uncommon for two entities to, once they have reached a verbal agreement, have a period of time between official contracts in which no legal agreement actually exists but both bodies continue to act as if it does in light of what they have verbally committed to doing.

In this case, the agreement is one which Slover outlined to the supervisors after board President Darryl Grennell and Natchez Mayor Butch Brown met and reached a compromise in mid-September after weeks of disagreement over the level of fire protection the county was receiving and the amount of funding the city was being paid for its services.

Now, the county will pay an additional $50,000 for the Natchez Fire Department to respond to all fires outside the city limits — bringing the total funding up to $626,000 — and, in return, the city and county governments will form a commission that will ultimately come up with a plan for expanded fire protection in the county.

The contract includes benchmark dates that will require both boards to meet jointly and discuss long-term plans, Carby said.

“We have pretty much got the agreement hammered out,” Slover said. “I am looking to have it done and before the board Oct. 1, but even if the agreement doesn’t get executed there won’t be a gap in services because the agreement has been made in principle — the city will get paid and the county will get protection.”

The aldermen will ratify the amended agreement at their meeting Oct. 9, Carby said.

In addition to seeking expanded fire coverage, the county is looking to recruit more volunteer fire fighters.

The volunteer stations will have an open house from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 6.