County requested to put consolidation questions on ballot
Published 12:32 am Thursday, September 7, 2017
NATCHEZ — A local attorney hopes to get permission today from county supervisors to poll residents about consolidation all or portions of city and county government on the November ballot.
Paul Benoist has come up with non-binding ballot questions about consolidation to get a feel for what locals think about merging the city and county governments.
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“The issues outlined are very important to the future of our area,” Benoist wrote in an email. “The information sought will be of help to all of our local elected officials, school system, economic development, tourism, planning, etc.”
Board of Supervisors President Mike Lazarus said he sent the list of questions to supervisors and he plans to call a vote today. Lazarus said the vote has to happen today because qualifying for the November election ends Friday and ballots need to be finalized as soon as possible.
Lazarus said he is for studying consolidation. Lazarus said he has looked into it previously and in some areas, consolidation has worked, while other areas have switched back to the two-government system.
“As far as saving money on elected officials, I am working as hard as I can to help people, and I will take on more responsibilities if it will save taxpayers’ money,” Lazarus said.
Lazarus said he was not certain consolidation would help out in every department — such as the two public works departments which he said were already under staffed.
“The biggest problem people will have is when you start having to let people go,” Lazarus said. “That’s where you will save money is in labor.”
Lazarus said getting public input is a good thing.
“It basically gives us an idea if the public is satisfied with the job we are doing,” Lazarus said. “I can’t speak for the city, but as far as the county, I think we are in good condition. We probably have $4 million in our cash balance right now.”
Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said he was “all for” the non-binding referendum to gauge public sentiment on the issue.
“I think it would be great to know what a majority of Natchez-Adams County residents — how they feel about consolidated government,” Grennell said.
Grennell said he would support consolidation if it proves to be cost-efficient, but he said a study must be done to determine the likelihood of that outcome.
The Stennis Institute, Grennell said, is currently conducting such a study that could advise the city and county whether consolidation is truly a good idea.
“When you talk about consolidated government, it’s not an easy process,” Grennell said. “It’s a tedious process. You have to figure out a whole lot of things to make it work.”
The county supervisors will vote on placing the items on the ballot at a 3 p.m. joint meeting today with the city aldermen about problems with a recently consolidated city-county emergency dispatch center. The meeting is at city council chambers.
The election is set for Nov. 7
Benoist’s list to put on the ballot includes:
- Do you favor complete consolidation of local city and county government in Adams County into a single governmental body?
- Do you favor consolidation of certain governmental functions in Natchez and Adams County?
- Do you favor consolidation of Natchez Police and Adams County Sheriff departments into a single, countywide law enforcement department?
- Do you favor development of a single, countywide fire protection system?
- Do you favor consolidation of the public works, water works, traffic, regional transit and utilities departments of Natchez and Adams County departments of roads and solid waste into a single, countywide department?
- Do you favor consolidation of all purchasing and inventory functions of Natchez and Adams County into a single, countywide department?
- Do you favor consolidation of all mechanic functions of city of Natchez and Adams County into a single, countywide department?
- Do you favor consolidation of personnel, city clerk and all bookkeeping and clerical functions of Natchez and Adams County into a single countywide department?
- Do you favor consolidation and creation of a single, countywide parks and recreation department to serve Adams County?
- Do you favor changing the form of city government of Natchez from weak mayor and six (6) aldermen to the Commission form of municipal government — mayor and two (2) commissioners?
- Do you favor changing the form of city government of Natchez from weak mayor and six (6) aldermen to the Council form of municipal government — council and appointed city manager?
David Hamilton contributed to this report.