E-911 dispatch leader pushes move from ‘horrible, oppressive’ offices under county jail

Published 4:50 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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NATCHEZ — The Adams County E-911 dispatch director wants to know when employees can move out of their dungeon-like basement workplace and into the new building purchased last year by the county.

Adams County E-911 Dispatch Director Annette Fells asked the Adams County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Wednesday morning for an update on efforts to move the dispatchers from the basement of the Adams County Jail where they currently operate to a more suitable location. The supervisors purchased a building at 14 Feltus St. in June 2023 for use as the dispatch center, but efforts to make the move have been delayed as the county waits for city officials to decide if they will support a consolidated dispatch center.

In January 2017, the city and the county agreed to consolidate 911 dispatching services. The city’s 10 dispatchers joined the county’s five dispatchers under one roof, housed in the basement of the Adams County Jail in the emergency management office. The space suffers rain and sewage leaks from above it and is plagued by mold and other poor working conditions, and Fells has been pushing for a new location since 2019.

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In July 2022, then-Natchez Police Chief Joseph Daughtry presented a plan he said would solve the issue of poor working conditions by moving dispatchers to the Natchez Police Department, which he said had room available for them. However, Fells and members of the county supervisors rejected that offer.

The problem has lingered.

County Attorney Scott Slover said he and new county administrator Stephanie Washington have a meeting set within the week with City Clerk Megan McKenzie and will discuss the dispatch center, among other topics.

“Let me ask this: Whether the city comes aboard or not, are we still going to move forward (with moving dispatch in the to recently-purchased building)?” asked District 4 Supervisor Ricky Gray.

“That would certainly be my thought process, yes,” said District 2 Supervisor, Kevin Wilson, who is board president. “The bottom line is the conditions underneath the jail are horrible, oppressive. If we have the money in her budget for the move, we need to do that.”

Fells asked if she could move forward with minor renovations the building needs before moving the dispatch center there, like the removal of a wall and paint.

She said she has received two bids from contractors for moving the wall — one in the neighborhood of $5,000 and another in the neighborhood of $2,000.

Fells said money for the move, new equipment and renovations are in her budget for the current fiscal year.

District 3 Supervisor Angela Hutchins asked if county staff or inmates could handle the painting needed at the building.

“We could paint it ourselves for that matter,” Fells said, meaning the dispatch staff. “The longer we wait, the more expensive things will be.”

County road manager Robbie Dollar, County Maintenance Supervisor Johnny Williams and ACSO Chief Deputy Shane Daugherty will go to the building and look at the renovations Fells seeks and offer opinions.