With new cell phone policy in place, county’s bill down $1K

Published 12:01 am Sunday, October 7, 2012

Photo illustration by Ben Hillyer

NATCHEZ — From May 2011 to May 2012, Adams County’s employees and elected officials talked away $39,204.10 in tax dollars; that’s less than they spent a year ago.

The county’s cell phone bill shows that the county has reduced the cost of cellular service by approximately $1,017.18 from the same period in 2010-2011.

The cost reduction was one of the stated goals when the county broke its contract with AT&T in 2010, though in 2011 costs had only been cut by $220.

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The county’s average monthly bill for 2011-2012 was $3,267. 

The department that generated the biggest single portion of the bill was the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, which in May had 17 phones, two data cards and a netbook assigned to it. The four highest annual bills generated by individuals came from phones assigned to the sheriff’s office, including:

4Sheriff Chuck Mayfield, $1,280.53. While most months Mayfield’s bill was for a $69.90 plan, in November 2011 he had a bill for $556.82.

• Maj. Billy Neely, $1,110.30.

• Maj. Danny Barber, $1,095.

• Col. Debbie Gee, $1,090.30.

The high month for Barber, Gee and Neely was April, with their respective bills totaling $253.09, $268.09 and $363.09.

That month, Maj. Charles Harrigill had a bill for $163.83, and Maj. Ricky Stevens had a bill for $262.10.

Mayfield said his November bill and the high March bills were all reflections of the fact that he and those officers had gotten new phones, which were added to the total bill. The sheriff said he had also upgraded a wireless computer on his account in December.

“We got the new phones because the phones they were using were Blackberries, and they weren’t compatible with the (computer system) we are (using) now, so the officers went to the iPhones,” Mayfield said.

The recommendation to upgrade phones, Mayfield said, was made by Neely, who serves as the department’s IT coordinator.

All ACSO commanding officers are issued cell phones with unlimited talk and text plans because they are subject to be on call round-the-clock, Mayfield said.

The sheriff also said the department’s public information officer, Courtney Taylor, a recent hire, is assigned a phone and a netbook so she can upload information from outside the office if necessary.

During the year, the ACSO added a data card with the intention of providing Internet access at the county firing range for Harrigill, who is working on the ACSO’s Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement accreditation paperwork from the firing range.

“It is cheaper to run (Internet) off of 3G than to run a line out there,” Mayfield said. “We would have to get satellite Internet at the firing range, and that would be expensive.”

In April, the Adams County Board of Supervisors issued a new cell phone policy that required department heads to review phone bills and evaluate which employees are issued phones.

The new rule also requires employees who use county phones for personal calls to reimburse the county.

In June 2012, a total of 52 phones — including data cards and netbooks — were in use across Adams County departments on the county’s Cspire account. For the same period in June 2011, 58 phones were in use.

Four phones were on an account with AT&T last year. Those phones were assigned to former supervisors Thomas “Boo” Campbell, S.E. “Spanky” Felter, Henry Watts and former Road Manager Clarence “Curley” Jones.

Felter paid the county $83.33 a month for his bill. He stopped using the phone in July, and his total bill from May-July was $103.31.