Locating E-911 at police department makes even more sense now

Published 2:33 pm Wednesday, August 3, 2022

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The Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen and the Adams County Board of Supervisors met last week to discuss among other things a new location of the E-911 dispatch center.

The city and county merged dispatching operations in 2018. That was a good decision then for the best use of taxpayer dollars and safety of city and county residents, and it’s the best decision now.

Dispatchers have complained about the unattractive and unhealthy conditions of the dispatch center in the basement of the Adams County Jail, a facility that seems to have more than its share of problems.

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Annette Fells, dispatch manager, has identified a building and is asking the county to purchase it for a standalone location for dispatchers. The building would cost $275,000 to purchase and would need to be renovated and outfitted, meaning equipment moved, security and a generator added. Some say that would cost in the neighborhood of $250,000. The city would be responsible for half those costs.

When presented with that option from the county, Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson asked Police Chief Joseph Daughtry to come up with a less expensive option, which he did. The city has presented a plan to move the dispatch into available space in the existing Natchez Police Department. That plan would require about $125,000 in renovations to prepare a place for dispatchers. In addition, Daughtry and Natchez Fire Chief Robert Arrington found a way to outfit dispatchers with new, state-of-the-art equipment, which would cost the city and county $25,000 each in a lease for the next seven years. That means no equipment would have to be transferred to a new location.

It was obvious during the discussion and comments from Fells, Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten and Emergency Management Director Robert Bradford they are against locating dispatchers at the police department.

However, it was a comment by Patten that reaffirms for us that doing exactly that is the best course of action.

County supervisors are dealing with a public safety problem at the Adams County Jail and will be forced to come up with another plan for housing inmates in the near future. At last week’s meeting, Patten explained that most clusters of municipalities are developing law enforcement complexes, which would house multiple agencies, like our police and sheriff’s department.

That’s something city and county officials should begin work on now — constructing a facility that would house the city’s police department in one wing, the sheriff’s department in another wing and a new jail on-premises.

Until that time, the most fiscally responsible decision — and the one that provides for the most seamless and efficient dispatch operations for citizens — is relocating dispatchers to the city’s police department.

We urge all involved to get past issues of personality and politics and do what is best for Natchez and Adams County taxpayers and residents.