Police, fire departments want limits on residency rescinded

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 26, 2001

[07/26/01] Vicksburg’s police and fire chiefs want to be able to go back to hiring employees without residency restrictions.

Police Chief Mitchell Dent and Fire Chief Kevin Westbrook both cited a need for more applicants. Both said that before a 1999 change in the residency requirement, the two departments got 30 to 40 applications a year. Now they average about 10 each. Board members said they may vote on the issue at their next meeting, Tuesday.

A city ordinance passed in 1997 said fire and police officers had to live within 50 miles of City Hall. It was amended in 1999 to require that all full-time civil service employees of the Vicksburg police and fire departments be residents of Warren County, inside or outside the city limits.

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North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young, who was a member of both past administrations that passed the rules, said Wednesday she believes changing the law would be taking money out of the city by employing people from other areas, but she will vote to rescind the ordinance to help strengthen the departments.

“If that helps us get quality people then I’ll support it,” Young said.

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman said he was also concerned about losing tax base by hiring people from other cities, but agreed with Young.

“I think we need to change it and I’ll probably support it,” Beauman said.

“In the last couple of years we lost two good people because they could not meet the residency requirements,” Dent said.

Mayor Laurence Leyens said he prefers that all police and firefighters be city residents, but he also will support making the change.

“I want the very best people working for the city,” Leyens said. “If a person wants to fly in from Alaska to do their shift, that’s fine with me if they are the very best person.”