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Adams County board question benefits of consolidation with Natchez
from Staff Reports - NEWS
December 4, 2018 - ListenUpYall.com

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – Plans are afoot for the two boards governing Natchez and Adams County to get together to discuss Mayor Darryl Grennell’s initiative for making local governments more efficient, but county supervisors are questioning whether more consolidation is the way.

County board President Calvin Butler said he expects the five county supervisors will meet with Grennell and the seven city aldermen to discuss the city-initiated undertaking.

During Monday’s meeting, Alderman Sarah Carter Smith asked the Board of Supervisors to participate with city officials in a series of public forums set to begin next month to discuss how local governments can run better and save money.

“We need to find out what the options are,” Smith told the board. However, it’s uncertain how much supervisors will participate in trying to find out.

Supervisor David Carter said the two boards could just be wasting time “spinning our wheels” trying to develop ways to consolidate services. Supervisor Angela Hutchins said “a lot of consolidation does not work.”

Supervisor Ricky Gray said the city and county have already consolidated some services – such as tax collection, recreation and the jailing of local inmates. A study on whether more should be done appears unnecessary, he said.

However, the county Board of Supervisors and city Board of Aldermen both last month did take separate steps toward a review of how Natchez and Adams County can streamline public services.

Aldermen first agreed Nov. 13 to help pay the costs of consultants from Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government coming to discuss what efficiencies Natchez and Adams County governments can implement. Supervisors followed with a vote three days later to study the feasibility of merging the county sheriff’s office with the city police department.

On Monday, Butler said the two boards need to meet together to specify exactly what’s on the table for discussion.

Aldermen last month voted to provide $4,000 for expenses Grennell estimated would total about $12,000 for the Stennis consultants. Other funds could come from private sources and the county Board of Supervisors, the mayor said in November.

Local government consolidation has been much discussed for many years in Natchez-Adams County. While some merging of operations has occurred, more is being pushed by proponents who say too much wasteful duplication exists in the local governments.

County Supervisor Mike Lazarus noted saving money through government consolidation is a worthwhile goal, but there are complexities involved that could outweigh the benefits. “There are arguments on both sides,” he said.

He said he’s not sure if supervisors would help pay the costs of bringing the Stennis consultants to Natchez.

“I don’t like to rehash the same thing over and over,” Lazarus said. He noted a consolidation study was done in the 1970s.

The Mississippi Research and Development Center in 1977 did recommend Natchez and Adams County merge into one governmental unit to save money and provide higher-quality public services. The study, done at the request of state legislators, predicted an annual saving of about $2.8 million in today’s dollars for Natchez-Adams County taxpayers getting expanded and better services.

Grennell has said he plans to have four public forums beginning in late January and winding up in spring to review and discuss government efficiencies and consolidation.

“The best course of action for our community will be based on factual information and consensus; not frustration, anger, or emotion,” he wrote in a November memo to aldermen.

However, Monday’s county board meeting with Smith ended with a clash of words between the alderman and supervisors. Gray and Hutchins said they were offended by comments Smith made last month about the county’s garbage-collection service. Smith said they misconstrued what she said.




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