City continues negotiations with county for fire service, E-911 dispatch

Published 12:18 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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NATCHEZ — City of Natchez Fire Chief Robert Arrington briefed Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson and the city’s aldermen Tuesday night on negotiations with the Adams County Board of Supervisors over fire services and E-911 dispatch services.

The county contracts with the City of Natchez for fire service in the county. The city contracts with the county for E-911 dispatch service for the Natchez Police Department. Both want more money for those services.

Arrington said under the ongoing contract, the county pays the city roughly $700,000 per year for fire service. He said the city is seeking a new five-year contract from the county of a little more than $1 million per year. The fire agreement expired about six months ago and it is ongoing on a month-to-month basis now.

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County supervisors have balked at that proposal from the city and have explored what it would cost to establish a paid fire department for county residents. At present, the county has a volunteer fire service that joins the city in covering fire calls in the county. Establishing a new fire department and ending its agreement with the city for fire coverage puts county residents at risk of losing their current fire rating and costing homeowners significantly higher home insurance rates.

The number of volunteers who respond to fires in the county has dwindled over the years, Arrington said.

“The current agreement was made a very long time ago and the price of everything has significantly changed,” Arrington said. “Along with that, we are unable to get the help at the fires we once got. In the original contract, the city’s fire department was to help the county fire services at fires in the county. Now we almost entirely handle all fire calls in the county. Some volunteers do show up, but that number has changed over the years.”

Arrington would like to present a plan to the county that would give it credit for the cost of a new pumper truck the city is buying for the cost of about $700,000, as well as credit for a $90,000 county grant that will go toward the cost of the truck.

That credit, totaling approximately $790,000, would spread across each year of the five-year contract, reducing it by approximately $158,000 per year.

As for the E-911 dispatch service, the county is seeking an increase from the city of approximately $300,000 per year, which Arrington said the city would agree to pay.

Aldermen said they would look through the proposal and vote on it at their next meeting. If approved, Arrington and Ward 5 Alderman Ben Davis, who oversees the fire department committee for the city, would present the proposal to the county.

In addition at Tuesday’s meeting, Ward 1 Alderman Valencia Hall presented to aldermen an agreement for the operation of the shared swimming pool and soccer fields.

Under an amended interlocal agreement, the county would control the swimming pool and would form a three-person committee to oversee operations there. Likewise, the soccer fields would be operated under the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Aldermen are expected to discuss that agreement at its next meeting also, which is set for May 14 at 11 a.m. in the Council Chambers, 115 S. Pearl St., across from City Hall.