Board of supervisors approves port budget, raises

Published 12:58 am Tuesday, October 18, 2016


NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors approved Monday a port budget that includes a 5-percent pay increase for all 17 port employees.

Even with the increase to employees, the port is projected to net $269,543 at the end of the fiscal year. Expenses are $2,369,336 and revenue is $2,638,500 plus $370 in interest income.

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Supervisor David Carter ultimately voted for the budget — as did all supervisors — but he cited concerns with the raises, particularly after having to tell Sheriff Travis Patten his deputies would not be receiving raises. Adams County workers have not received an across-the-board pay raise since 2012.

County Administrator Joe Murray said the county had incurred approximately $2 million in debt for the construction of a T-dock at the port in 1997. The county expects that debt to be retired in November 2017. Board President Mike Lazarus said with the port giving raises every year — last year it was a 10-percent raise — for the past five years, he hoped Port Director Anthony Hauer had a plan for repaying the debt.

Lazarus said the county has been paying port debt while the port has been getting back on its feet.

Hauer said the port would do all it could do to help the county with that debt.

Lazarus said he was glad to see the port doing so well since Hauer became director in 2003. Lazarus said he was sure the port employees deserved every penny, but he mentioned giving raises every year isn’t frugal.

“It is so important to watch the money all the time, even when things are good,” he said. “People are sometimes not as frugal with money as they are when things are not good.”

Supervisor Ricky Gray said according to state statute, supervisors have two duties concerning the port — approve the port director’s salary and approve the budget.

Gray said Lazarus must be wearing a port commissioner hat with all the questions. Gray said the only departments receiving this kind of questioning since he has been on board have been the port and the sheriff’s office, while other department’s budgets are approved with few questions.

Lazarus, who is not a voting member of the port commission, said he was wearing his “supervisor” hat.

“I need to know what is going on everywhere in the county,” he said. “I question every dime being spent in the county.”

Lazarus said supervisors need look no further than the bankruptcy of the former county-owned Natchez Regional Medial Center to understand why they have to keep up with what is happening in the county.

“I trust Anthony, but if the port goes broke tomorrow, the people are going to be looking for us, ‘How did y’all let this happen?’” Lazarus said.

Gray said he wasn’t saying Lazarus should not keep up with the port.

“The only thing I am saying, as a supervisor, you have a role to play,” he said. “Sometimes you can’t overstep your boundaries.”

The board also approved Hauer’s salary, which is $109,147. He is receiving a $9,095 increase from last year.

In other news:

– Entergy presented a $2,800 grant to the Adams County Safe Room for improvements. Emergency Management  Director Robert Bradford said the money would buy informational monitors and a sound system.

– An emergency warning siren, often used to alert people of severe weather, was struck by an automobile on Passman Road recently, and the county will pay $5,000 to fix it. Bradford said the driver’s insurance would cover $1,750 in the repair. Bradford said he would attempt to collect the remainder of the $5,000 from the driver, but he wanted the system working again as soon as possible.

-AT&T will make improvements to towers at 1209 U.S. 61 and 800 Ratcliff Road, which will lead to service improvements.

-The county hired an assistant purchasing clerk at a rate of $10 an hour or $20,800. The employee will also float and help at the board of supervisor’s office and during tax season will help the tax assessor.

Carter voted against the hire and said he does not believe floating positions are successful.