Aldermen hear city’s latest proposal for contracts with county for fire, 911 dispatch services

Published 4:22 pm Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Natchez Fire Chief Robert Arrington returned to the drawing board and presented a proposal Tuesday night to the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen that most think will be more palatable for the county for contracts for fire protection and E911 dispatch services.

The county and city have been at a stalemate in settling contracts with each other for those services. The county contracts with the Natchez Fire Department for fire services in Adams County, and the city contracts with Adams County for radio dispatch services.

Arrington said recent proposals from the city to the county for fire services have been based on the city’s budgetary needs and the number of county fire calls it has responded to in the past. This new proposal is based on the number of employees the city needs to adequately handle fire calls in the county and the number of dispatchers the city needs to support for dispatch services.

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For 911 dispatch, the city has been paying $292,404 per year. However, that does not cover the cost of 10 dispatchers, which is the number historically the city has needed for dispatch services. The new agreement proposed by the city would handle salaries and any benefits for 10 dispatchers. The new cost to the city would be $459,026.40, an increase of approximately $166,622 per year to the city.

For fire services, the county has been paying $701,603 per year. Based on the need for 16 firefighters to provide services to the county, the new cost to the county would be $989,922.24, an increase of $288,319,24 annually.

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said he has talked with Adams County Board of Supervisors President Kevin Wilson, supervisors Ricky Gray, Warren Gaines and Angela Hutchins, and texted supervisor Wes Middleton.

“They all have these numbers, and I have received positive comments,” Gibson said. “Reasonably, it was pointed out that firefighters have had two raises but are still having issues hiring dispatchers. They may make a counteroffer, factoring in a raise for dispatchers. However, I would say we are closer on this issue than we have been.

“I know the public has been waiting for us to get this done, but we didn’t feel like we should have a joint meeting until we were closer to ironing things out. We didn’t need a meeting that would result in a standoff because we were so far apart,” Gibson said.

He also reminded the aldermen and the public that the county allowed the city to receive a $90,000 grant through the state fire marshal, which led to the purchase of a new pumper truck for the fire department. That truck will benefit the city and county should the contract for fire services be extended.