County sticks by offer to city to fund 30% of 911 operation

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 17, 2002

[09/17/02]Supervisors stuck by their offer Monday, agreeing on a split vote to provide 30 percent of the supplement needed to operate Warren County’s 911 dispatch center during the coming year.

It’s now up to Vicksburg officials to decide whether to ratify that agreement plus others regarding services provided jointly by the local governments. Mayor Laurence Leyens said he’ll vote no.

District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon and District 2 Supervisor Michael Mayfield failed in efforts to increase the county’s offer to 35 percent of the supplement, a compromise amount up about $23,000 from this year’s funding. The city wants 37 percent.

Warren County and Vicksburg officials have often disagreed over “fair shares” of 911 costs not covered by tolls people pay on residential, business and cell phones.

The dispatch center’s budget request for the new year has not been finalized, but this year, the city and county were asked to fund a $381,034 supplement. The city contributed 70 percent, or $266,724, and the county, 30 percent, or $114,310, after nearly six months of debate over what percentages each governing body should fund.

Since services are provided countywide, Leyens has maintained that a single countywide assessment should fund the supplement. However, this year, he said at a city-county meeting Thursday he would withdraw his objection if a citizen committee’s suggested 63-37 split were put in place.

After learning Tuesday morning that the county board had rejected that offer, Leyens said he will oppose 70-30.

“I’m extremely disappointed that after a year of compromise, the supervisors are continuing to play political games,” Leyens said.

Monday, District 1 Supervisor David McDonald, District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale Jr. and District 5 Supervisor and Board President Richard George overrode Selmon and Mayfield to leave the offer unchanged.

In debate before the board vote, Selmon tried to persuade his fellow supervisors to support the 63-37 split, which would have resulted in the county increasing its funding by about $26,000.

“We’ve already adopted our budget,” George countered, referring to action the board took Sept. 3.

“The taxpayers are looking for someone who can make a decision and stick to it,” George said. “When you vote, you must be prepared to commit and when you commit, you don’t whine about it.”

City officials have agreed that because city residents also pay county taxes, they are, in effect, being “double dipped” for 911 services.

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman said that although he agrees with the mayor’s position, he will support the agreement proposed by the supervisors for 911 funding. He also said that egos were getting in the way of a compromise between the city and the county.

“Every time egos and personalities get involved, you get set back a little,” Beauman said.

North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young, who could be the deciding vote on the city board, was not available.

Supervisors also voted to renew the same financial split on countywide ambulance and rescue services operated by the Vicksburg Fire Department.

There was no reaction from city officials to the supervisors’ vote.

The other interlocal agreements approved by unanimous vote were:

For Warren County Tax Collector Pat Simrall to collect taxes for the city and Tax Assessor Richard Holland to perform the assessor function. The city is to pay the county $75,000 for the services with $10,000 going to the tax collector, $2,000 to the tax assessor and $63,000 to the tax collector’s office budget.

For ambulance and rescue services with the county paying $310,000.

For the county to take over the function of sale of city property for non-payment of taxes and the redemption of that property.

Board attorney Randy Sherard said he will assume the responsibility of getting the resolutions approved by each board and the proposed agreements and sending them to the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office for approval.

In other action, the board:

Approved an application from the International Paper Vicksburg Mill for a bond issue to fund planning and construction of levees around settling ponds at the mill. The levees would protect the ponds to the level of a 100-year-frequency flood. The bond issue is for between $1.8 million and $2 million and would not obligate the county for repayment.

Approved the extension of the lease of the Port of Vicksburg to Kinder-Morgan Bulk Terminals for one year at the same terms.

Approved a letter of support for the Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to get a grant to study the feasibility of a public transportation system.