Flaggs has strong words for supervisors

Published 7:10 pm Monday, September 17, 2018

Mayor George Flaggs said Monday he’s going to the Warren County Board of Supervisors next week to explain a proposal putting Vicksburg-Warren 911 on a fixed monthly budget.

The 911 commission, of which Flaggs as mayor is a member, recommended on Sept. 12 putting 911 on a fixed monthly budget of $46,000 a month as a way of controlling costs and reducing unscheduled overtime with the dispatchers.

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The supervisors, however, opposed the plan at a Friday work session.

Board President Richard George opposed the plan because he believed it will jeopardize public safety. He said the supervisors had already approved its fiscal 2019 budget and he would not support amending it.

“This is not about controlling cost,” George said of the proposal Friday. “This is about serving people in an emergency; and we have done that. We went through an awful lot of trouble to build this system. The public will come in here fussing when you’re talking about their personal wellbeing and your ability to respond to their immediate needs.”

Flaggs said he was to appear before the supervisors at their regular meeting Monday but was told not to attend. He said he was invited to attend a work session about the proposal next week.

He took issue with George’s comments about jeopardizing safety.

“Unless I’m wrong, it wouldn’t jeopardize safety,” he said at Monday’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. “It did not affect manpower.”

Also, he said, the supervisors’ budget for 911 had “far more money than you would need to operate (911). What they did, they adopted a budget giving every employee overtime.”

Under an interlocal agreement between the city and county, the city pays 65 percent of the 911 dispatcher salaries with the county paying 35 percent. The communications center employs 17 full-time and four part-time dispatchers, with four more part-time dispatchers paid from revenue raised by a surcharge placed on each telephone in the county.

According to the county, the city’s share of 911 salaries for fiscal 2019 is projected at $619,682, while the county is expected to pay $333,675. Under the fixed amount plan, the city’s cost would be $552,000 — a savings of $67,682. The county would save $25,675.

Flaggs said he asked Fire Chief Craig Danczyk to look at a more cost-effective way of funding 911, “By looking at all the (dispatcher) overtime and averaging it out and then setting a monthly amount.”

He said a safeguard was if pay exceeded $552,000, it would be covered by the “surplus” — the surcharge revenue. “The county won’t be out of any money,” Flaggs said, “And a $67,000 savings for the city.”

The proposed monthly budget, he said, would save the county money, and allow for better allocation of manpower.

“It’s a management issue,” he said. “If you’ve got that much overtime in the budget, looks like you’ve got to hire more people. That’s what makes sense to me.”

Flaggs said he will meet with the supervisors next week, but the proposal won’t change.

“What we want to do is go in there and elementarily — we’re going to take it to their level — and explain it to them in an elementary way,” he said. “We’re going to use flat math and hope the supervisors get it. It just requires someone to use managerial skills.

“That’s what we’re trying to teach, and the other reason is fiscal responsibility. It’s amazing how I can go to the White House and explain trillions of dollars; I go to Jackson and explain billions of dollars, and I come down here to Vicksburg and I can’t explain thousands of dollars to a board of supervisors and there’s five of them.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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