Aldermen debate fire agreement with county, E911

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, August 29, 2017

NATCHEZ — A squabble over responsibilities of E911 dispatchers led Natchez aldermen to vote Monday to potentially bill the county for services the city believes the dispatchers need to be doing, but are not.

After hearing Adams County insisted the city pay approximately $292,000 for its share of the dispatch center, aldermen approved billing additional expenses to the county’s fire protection agreement.

Interim City Clerk Megan Edmonds said she had spoken with Adams County Board of Supervisors Attorney Scott Slover, who said supervisors would accept approximately $292,000, the approximate cost for the city to run a dispatch center on its own.

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Aldermen delayed their decision on approving the $292,000 annual payment until Wednesday’s specially called meeting at council chambers after hearing from police and fire officials about problems the new dispatch center is causing.

“It seems like all of this should have been done at one time,” Alderman Billie Joe Frazier said. “Someone is dropping the ball on this. We are spending double the money to get it done when it should have been done all at one time.

“The kinks should have been worked out.”

The Adams County E911 Dispatch Center was set to open on April 14, but faced some delays in the beginning, opening a little later that month.

Natchez Fire Department Operations Manager Conner Burns said Monday the dispatch center and fire department’s report systems are not compatible. Burns said someone is writing report information the fire department submits to the state on a sheet of paper.

To use the dispatch center’s system will cost $5,000, Burns said, plus $3,500 each year.

Police Chief Walter Armstrong said the dispatch center is not finalizing National Crime Information Center (NCIC) reports like the police department had anticipated. The consolidation of dispatching occurred before Armstrong became chief.

Mayor Darryl Grennell said the dispatch center has the NCIC certified dispatchers to operate the system, but the dispatchers apparently will not do it. Grennell said this problem was brought to his attention by former interim police chief Shawn T. King.

“They were supposed to do it all at the dispatch center,” Grennell said. “They said they would not. The sheriff kept two of his (dispatchers) to handle the NCIC stuff in his department. All of our people went down to the E911 center.”

Armstrong said the police department retained an assistant who is NCIC certified.

“If we are paying $300,000 for them to take over the 911 system like we used to do, to me, they should be doing everything we were doing at the police department,” Armstrong said.

Edmonds said it would cost $33,600 to have one additional employee at the police department handle NCIC.

Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said whatever the cost to make the police and fire departments whole in relation to the E911 center, the city should bill the county.

“Any incidental cost we are absorbing, we need to add it to the fire contract … If we can’t sit down and talk and work it out,” Arceneaux-Mathis said.

Alderman Dan Dillard seconded Arceneaux-Mathis’ motion, and said he had been under the impression consolidation was supposed to be for the better of the community. But not only that, consolidation was supposed to be more efficient and cost-effective.

“That seems to not be the case.”