City, county officials discussing reformation of E-911 services

Published 4:48 pm Monday, December 6, 2021

NATCHEZ — City of Natchez and Adams County officials are considering a reformation of E-911 services after the head of the department expressed concerns over work conditions.

Adams County Board of Supervisors attorney Scott Slover said city officials had “communicated their desire” for taking back ownership of the city’s E-911 operation in a jointly held meeting with county officials last month. Slover said they also discussed moving the E-911 operation to a new location and are now taking steps to determine what it would cost.

The E-911 department sits in the basement of the Adams County Jail. It has been housed there since the department was consolidated with the city and county in 2017.

After the supervisors’ meeting, Mayor Dan Gibson said he and Alderwoman Valencia Hall had met informally with a couple of supervisors at the request of Natchez Police Chief Joseph Daughtry between two and three weeks ago about E-911.  Gibson said no final decisions had been made during that meeting.

“It’s too early to say what would happen,” Gibson said. “We want to see that (E-911) is efficiently and adequately provided and we could look at a better way to do it at a lesser cost to our taxpayers and still leave it as a combined service (between the city and the county). We will know soon. We are crunching numbers and will likely by next week have something for each board to consider.”

Last month, E-911 Dispatch Director Annette Fells told supervisors about the department’s high turnover rate and issues hiring new people. Fells blamed the low pay rate and the work environment for these issues. She said the ceiling sometimes leaked with raw sewage from the inmate’s bathrooms. She added any commotion from the upstairs jail could be heard loud and clear where her employees spend 12 hours of their day.

At the time, the Board of Supervisors delayed taking action until they could discuss the issue with the city.

In other matters during Monday’s meeting, the board:

  • Unanimously approved the transfer of $5,000 to the St. Catherine Creek Utility Authority Fund, which is tasked with maintaining undeveloped land and landfill property around the former International Paper plant. Chandler Russ, who is the president of the Utility Authority, asked the board to consider funding their operations at a rate of $30,000 per year, which covers insurance and maintaining the landfill, water and sewage system formerly owned by IP. The board delayed deciding about the $30,000 annual allocation until their January meeting and instead voted unanimously to allocate the $5,000, which is enough to fund the Utility Authority’s operations through the end of the year. “If we ever get the wastewater treatment facility up and running, it should be self-funding at that point,” Russ said. “Otherwise, we’re sitting there and the property is a landfill with little use left. … The Utility Authority’s goal is to eventually get some grant funds to get the wastewater treatment facility up and running. We still have to carry it until that point.” Russ alluded to an unnamed industrial prospect, which he called “Project Apollo,” being a customer of the wastewater treatment facility once it’s operational.
  • Heard Slover announce that Adams County could receive between a $175,000 to $250,000 settlement from their participation in a global opioid lawsuit against major drug manufacturers.
  • Unanimously approved a Memorandum of Understanding for the hiring of
  • Tuwanna Williams as director in the newly created workforce development department. Officials said Williams would be considered an employee of the City of Natchez, however, hire and fire decisions in workforce development would come before both governing entities.
  • Received a letter from the county bookkeeper Denise Bell announcing her resignation effective later this month. Officials wished Bell well in her future endeavors and unanimously approved advertising for a new bookkeeper.
  • Heard a presentation from Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis on behalf of the NAACP, who requested that supervisors join a conglomerative effort to alleviate the issue of poverty in Natchez and Adams County.
  • Received a request from Sixth District Circuit Court Judge Lillie Sanders to hire attorney Ikeecia Colenberg as a new public defender with a salary of $30,000 a year. Officials postponed taking any action to hire Colenberg until their January meeting so they could review the public defender’s budget.