Could city, county merge services?

Published 12:18 am Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Almost like clockwork, City of Natchez officials have begun to question the value of the city’s mutual fire protection agreement with Adams County.

Just about every year one side of the agreement — city or county — begins to questions the value.

Traditionally, the county believes it pays too much to the city. The city believes it isn’t paid enough for the level of protection provided.

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Last week, city aldermen restored approximately $122,000 to the Natchez Fire Department’s budget. The amount had been previously cut in the city’s effort to make the budget balance last year.

Because of increased gaming tax revenue, the city now believes it can afford to restore the funds.

The challenge is really only on paper. The city was going to pay for the overtime worked by firefighters anyway. They have to. It’s the law.

The bigger opportunity is to figure out a way to fully settle the almost annual gripe about fire protection.

We urge city and county leaders jointly to hire a consultant to consider how the city and county might best merge resources. On the surface, the city could take fire protection and the county could provide law enforcement services.

Perhaps, just perhaps, by combining our resources and not duplicating them our community might have enough savings to ensure our firefighters and law enforcement officers are among the best equipped and most rigorously trained in the country. Those who put their lives on the line to protect ours deserve the best we can offer.

At the moment, emergency responders are often an afterthought in the annual budgeting process and a point of contention between city and county leaders when one side or the other believes their expense is not fair.