City, county meet, say they’ll meet again on interlocal pacts

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 17, 2002

[01/17/2002]City, county meet, say they’ll meet again on interlocal pacts City, county meet, say they’ll meet again on interlocal pacts While meeting as planned Wednesday, city and county officials agreed only to meet again and have more information on interlocal matters when they do.

The date for the Wednesday session was set as part of marathon negotiations that led to agreements last fall about how the City of Vicksburg and Warren County would share costs of countywide public ambulance services and fund supplemental expenses of the E-911 Dispatch Center.

The pledge as those negotiations ended would be to plan better this year so that a crisis would not occur as the city and county budget years are ending each Sept. 30.

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Wednesday’s wide-ranging talks at the Chamber of Commerce office lasted 2 1/2 hours and centered on finding better formulas for shared funding.

“We need to get some closure on 911,” Mayor Laurence Leyens told the supervisors. “I don’t want to fight with you.”

For this year, the $1 million budget for dispatchers and equipment is being paid by $1 per line phone charges supplemented by $270,000 in city funds and $96,000 in county funds.

The rub is that the city residents are paying a double share, since they also pay the bulk of county taxes from which the $96,000 comes.

“911 dispatch is not a city function. 911 is absolutely controlled by your board,” Leyens said.

District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale Jr. agreed to study the legalities of 911 dispatch and the county board agreed to let its attorney, Randy Sherard, and City Attorney Nancy Thomas prepare and send a letter to Attorney General Mike Moore asking for an opinion dealing specifically with Vicksburg and Warren County’s 911 situation.

Among other topics:

Vicksburg formerly had a tax collector’s office, but contracted with Warren County decades ago to collect ad valorem levies. Leyens said he needed to know how the $80,000 the county receives for the services was established.

“Show us that money goes into that budget (tax collector’s for example) and not just into the general fund,” said South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman.

Supervisors referred those questions to Tax Collector Pat Simrall and Chancery Clerk Dot McGee.

Leyens asked the county to combine animal control services. “We could do it on a per animal cost and share the cost of the whole operation,” Leyens said.

City officials asked the county to look into the possibility of a program to offer a tax abatement for the owners of property in downtown. The possibility of a jointly funded public golf course on land where the Yazoo Canal and Mississippi River meet was also mentioned.

In a separate session Tuesday, 60 citizens were invited to spend a day meeting to define specific goals for the city. Consolidation of local governments was one of the priorities identified.