Consolidation may be the right thing

Published 12:06 am Sunday, June 22, 2014

Natchez and Adams County are inseparable in my mind in pretty much all aspects except one — government.

In practically every single function of government, Natchez-Adams County has two of everything.

We have two fully staffed law enforcement agencies — the Natchez Police Department and the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. Each comes with its own staff of round-the-clock dispatchers.

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Two public works/road crews also exist. The main difference being the name painted on the side of their work trucks.

Those are among the most visible duplicates.

The behind-the-scenes twins would also include a myriad of back-office functions including, payroll processing, accounts payable, accounts receivable, etc.

So why does our community continue to allow all of the duplication?

The answer seems to mostly be: Because we’ve always done it that way.

Will it always be that way?

Hopefully not, but correcting this will not come from the minds of elected officials — most of whom get elected with great intentions, then seek constant reelection, thus they fear rocking the status quo boat by suggesting any tangible change.

Our community has at least four clear areas in which working together would not only make sense, but it would also save some cents, too.

The first potential area of cooperation is already working, at least a little.

For years, the city and county have had a fire agreement that provides city fire crews to respond to all county fires.

As a former county resident — we moved back into the city a little more than a year ago — I’m one of the folks who appreciated knowing that if my house caught fire a fulltime, professional firefighting crew was going to come as quickly as they could.

The challenge with the fire agreement is that neither the city nor the county feels it’s a fair deal. The city feels they get paid too little for their fire protection. The county thinks they pay too much. From there, the battle ensues almost each and every year — usually around budget time.

The arguing seems silly, until you realize just how difficult it is to sort through exactly how to split up the burden.

A few more lines of demarcation mean city residents in particular pay for two law enforcement agencies.

County sheriff’s deputies must drive a couple of miles of city streets in pretty much any direction to get from their downtown office out into the sheriff’s primary jurisdiction — unincorporated Adams County.

Is the Natchez Police Department actually needed if city taxpayers also fund the sheriff’s office? Seems like a great way to swap off responsibility.

Let the county handle law enforcement, dissolve NPD and let the city handle countywide fire protection — with no additional payments from the county, using instead the budget savings from no longer having a police department.

Simply merging city public works crews and county road crews could provide additional savings — both normal operating costs as well as capital expenditures. Ditto for all the accounting functions. Could merging accounting functions save money? Almost certainly.

Of course the real solution to all of this is simple in theory but would take significant public outcry to accomplish — merge city government into county government.

Though it should happen, it probably will never change.

Why not? Simple: Because we’ve always done it that way around here.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or