Supervisors approve assistant fire coordinator position

Published 12:09 am Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NATCHEZ — A new man or woman may soon be joining the fight against fires in Adams County.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to allow county fire coordinator Stan Owens to begin the process of developing the position of assistant fire coordinator.

Owens requested permission for the board to create the position, citing a recommendation from Jay Fitch of Fitch and Associates, the consultant who is working with the county to develop a long-range fire plan.

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“(The assistant coordinator) will work with the city and Adams County fire services,” Owens said. “We would be able to use this individual to work more directly with our volunteers.”

Board Attorney Scott Slover said the goal of having someone work more closely with volunteer fire fighters is to relieve the Natchez Fire Department from having to respond to every fire outside the city limits.

“If we can boost our volunteer force, we can relieve some of the cost on the city for non-life threatening fires,” Slover said. “The city has, in the past, hoped that is one of the things we can handle.”

The county government has an agreement with the City of Natchez in which the Natchez Fire Department responds to all fire calls in the county. The county paid $626,000 to the city for fire protection for the 2013 fiscal year.

Discussions about the possibility of manning fire houses outside the city limits have been on the table for the last six months, and Owens said he, Fitch and Supervisor David Carter will be meeting with city officials next week to discuss county-wide fire coordination.

Owens said he believes a salary range of $38,000-$40,000 would be appropriate for the position.

County Administrator Joe Murray said the county had not budgeted for the position for the current year, and Owens said whoever is employed as assistant fire coordinator would likely only begin service for the last quarter of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Owens said he has a vision for the assistant fire coordinator to become a full-time position in six months.

Owens is the county emergency management director, flood plain manager, Emergency 911 administrator and fire coordinator, and he said he needs the second person so someone can focus on fire needs full-time.

“Really, this is to make sure the county does take the right steps toward fire protection, that we can have somebody who can totally focus on the volunteer firefighters and on working with the city,” he said.

“He or she would work in my office, side-by-side rather than under me.”

In other news:

•The board voted to move the uniform contract for the Adams County Juvenile Justice Detention Center’s guards from Centas to Aramark.

Detention Center Director Kevin Nations said the change would save $1,036 a year.

•The board authorized Murray to advertise for the financing of a new van for Adams Coroner James Lee.

Purchasing Clerk Frances Bell said the van would cost $16,562.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus said Lee’s coroner’s van is in poor shape and needs to be replaced.

“His van is about to fall down, and that is not a van we want sitting on the side of the road,” Lazarus said.

•The board voted to authorize Slover to pursue in Adams County Justice Court claims against the worst cases of Adams County residents who have not paid their sanitation bills. The authorization came at Slover’s suggestion.

Sanitation department officials have in the past said they have accounts with unpaid residential bills that go back 25 years.

“One of options (to collect the unpaid bills) would be to have counsel pursue it in litigation through justice court; some counties have used it and had some success; some counties have used it with little success,” Slover said.