Gray, Gaines call for joint city-county meeting to resolve dispatch, fire issues

Published 4:25 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2024

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NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez and Adams County have been working without a formal fire services agreement since August 2023.

The question of a better location for E-911 dispatchers, who at present dispatch calls to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and the Natchez Police Department, has been lingering longer than that.

And, the question remains about how the city and county should manage the pool and soccer fields, which they own jointly.

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At least two members of the Adams County Board of Supervisors voiced their hope on Monday that these issues could be resolved soon.

District 4 Supervisor Ricky Gray said he had the opportunity to talk with Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson at a recent conference on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and Gray thinks there is a misunderstanding about what the county is paying currently for fire services and what the city is paying for dispatch service.

Gray asked for an accounting of those numbers.

“What are we paying the city for fire protection right now,” Gray asked.

County Attorney Scott Slover answered, “About 800,000” a year.

“I don’t need nobody guessing,” Gray responded. “I need the exact amount. I had a conversation with the mayor and their numbers are way off from our numbers. I need to know what we are paying right now for fire protection. We have a budget coming up. They have a budget coming up. We need to get E-911 and fire protection under control right now.”

Gray asked that a meeting be scheduled between the county’s Board of Supervisors and the city’s Mayor and Board of Aldermen to hammer out an agreement for fire protection, E-911 dispatch services and operation of the swimming pool, which is expected to open on the Memorial Day weekend.

Slover later told Gray the city is paying $816,250 to the city for fire protection services in the county.

Darryl Smith, the county’s fire services coordinator for its volunteer fire operation, said he disagrees with a statement in a recent newspaper story, which said county residents could be at risk of paying higher prices for home insurance if it stops contracting with the city for fire services.

He said he talked with those who set fire ratings and has been told ratings are based on water supply.

“If the county breaks away from the city, it will not hurt (current) the county’s ratings,” Smith said.

Later in the meeting, District 5 Supervisor Warren Gaines asked for all of the issues pending between the city and county to be put on an agenda and worked out in a joint meeting.

“We have worked well for the last four years (with the city and I think we can continue to keep a good relationship, but we have a lot of issues. You can see how hard it is to come to one accord,” Gaines said. “We need to put all of the issues on one agenda so we can sit at a table and get all or most of them worked out.”