After months of debate the city and county have reached agreements concerning fire protection, tax collections and emergency dispatching – at least for the next 12 months.
The Mayor and Board of Aldermen accepted the latest proposal from the Yazoo County Board of Supervisors Monday. The county’s proposal clarifies that the city is not the primary responder to fire calls in the county but will provide mutual aid as needed. The county will also continue collecting taxes for the city and dispatching emergency calls.
The agreement is good for 12 months.
Ward 4 Alderman Aubry Brent Jr., who took the lead in continuing negotiations with the county, made the motion to approve the agreements. The motion passed unanimously (Ward 3 Aldermen Rev. Gregory Robertson was absent due to illness).
“It’s the common sense thing to do,” Brent said. “We are not ready to collect taxes.”
Mayor Diane Delaware said that the key factor in this agreement is that the city fire department is no longer the primary responder for emergency calls outside the city limits.
“This is very different, because we are no longer the primary responders,” Delaware said. “The ratings bureau said to us that if you are the primary responder, you must have the resources to do that. We are rated based on the whole area that we cover. Today we are not the primary responder to the county, and we shall not be the primary responder under any circumstances.”
Delaware said the city’s fire rating may improve now that the city is not the primary responder outside the city limits.
Ward 2 Alderman Dr. Jack Varner said the city needs to determine in the future if it would cost less for the city to collect its own taxes and dispatch emergency calls.
Earlier in the meeting, with Varner strongly objecting and casting the sole vote against it , the board approved the purchase of tax collection software and training for employees in the city clerk’s office.
Varner said it makes no sense to spend thousands of dollars on software isn’t necessary right now because the county will be collecting taxes for at least another year. Varner also questioned the wisdom of adding additional training responsibilitys on the city clerk’s office when the city is already paying an accounting firm to do some of the work previously handled by the clerk’s office.
Delaware said the city needs to understand the process and the actual numbers. She added that the software purchase was in the budget.
Fire Chief Terry Harber told the board that he is satisfied with the terms of the agreement. Harber said nothing really changes concerning how his department responds to calls. They will respond whenever they can when called.
Harber said his department will determine if it has the resources to go when an emergency call for mutual aid comes in.
“We always look out for the city,” Harber said. “That’s the bottom line – the city always comes first.”
Cobie Collins, president of the Board of Supervisors, said he was pleased to see an agreement. Collins said he believes residents in the city and county will ultimately enjoy better fire protection in the future with the addition of the District 3 Volunteer Fire Department, which can also provide mutual aid to the city as needed.
“The county is also in the fire protection business, and we are going to use our resources to provide the best possible protection to our citizens,” Collins said.