Text dispatch system discussed for firefighters

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, May 20, 2014

NATCHEZ Adams County’s volunteer firefighters might soon be dispatched to fires through text message.

Volunteer Fire Coordinator Darryl Smith told the board of supervisors Monday he is looking into ways to use a text-messaging group to contact firefighters when they are needed.

“We are using the pagers, but we are also looking at using the telephone because everybody has a cell phone,” he said.

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“I think this will help us, for everybody to get out to the scene, because we need more bodies out there when we get called out.”

County Administrator Joe Murray said the county’s website already has the capability of sending text messages out to select groups, and that could be utilized.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus said county residents might likewise be interested in receiving such text messages.

“Even if someone can’t volunteer every time, I would want to know if my neighbor’s house was on fire,” he said. “I would think most people would want to be on that system.”

Smith said many residents seem to be under the impression that when they sign up to be volunteer firefighters, they are obligated to respond to every fire.

Lazarus said residents should realize they aren’t obligated to be present at every blaze, but should be willing to help out in their neighborhoods.

“You show up at the (fires) you can,” he said. “But if you have a big enough pool (of volunteers from which you can draw), there’s not that much strain on the firefighters.”

The board also gave Emergency Management Director Robert Bradford Sr. permission to sell two travel trailers that are housed at the Foster Mound Volunteer Fire Department.

The trailers were given to the county 16 years ago to be used as a command unit, Bradford said, but they were not right for the job, which he said was, “like trying to make a mule into a racehorse.”

“It just isn’t going to happen,” he said. Supervisor Angela Hutchins said the trailers had never been used since they were given to the county.

In other news:

• The board expressed concern that records provided to them by Natchez Regional Medical Center were not what they expected.

As part of an agreement with United Mississippi Bank for a $1.5 million line of credit, which is used to finance the hospital’s accounts receivable, the hospital has agreed to provide the county and the bank with weekly updates of its finances.

Slover said when he requested the information for the board, he was given a patient census count.

The supervisors asked him if he could verify with the bank that was the same information being provided to it.

“That they would take patient census as financials, that is just ludicrous,” Supervisor David Carter said.

• The board accepted Veterans Affairs Officer Vivian Toussaint’s resignation. Toussaint said she is resigning so she can attend seminary and take an appointment to the pastorate in the Atlanta area.

• The board accepted the resignation of Election Commissioner Mitch Ballard.

Ballard’s resignation letter said he is resigning to pursue a career opportunity.

Ballard’s vacant position will be filled during the general election in November, board attorney Scott Slover said.

• Concerned resident Cece Harper asked the board to relay a message to Sheriff Chuck Mayfield that Metro Narcotics agents had allegedly been too rough with her daughter and caused an injury that resulted in a $7,000 hospital bill she would like paid.

“The police are supposed to serve and protect, and some are harming and harassing,” she said.

Slover said the sheriff is a separately elected position and the board cannot direct him to do anything.

“We do take these complaints seriously, though, and we will make sure he is aware of the complaint,” Slover said.

Because Metro Narcotics is a joint task force with the city of Natchez, the board members advised Harper she should also speak with the Natchez board of aldermen.

• County resident Wilson Palmer spoke briefly to the board in support of proposed building codes outside the Natchez city limits.

The state legislature has passed a law requiring all counties to adopt building codes or to opt out of the system.

While the City of Natchez already has building codes in place, the areas outside the city limits do not.

The board has scheduled a public hearing for June 2 so other members of the public can express their support or disapproval for the plan before making a final decision.