Sheriff says dispatching for Poplarville ends Nov. 1 unless agreement worked out

Published 3:03 pm Tuesday, October 2, 2012

 A major public safety issue loomed for citizens of the county seat of Poplarville and grew even grimmer on Monday when Sheriff David Allison told supervisors that he did not know whether or not negotiations would continue, and also that he would cut off dispatching services for the City of Poplarville unless the city agreed to pay the salaries of two dispatchers.

Allison told supervisors that on Nov. 1 he will terminate dispatching services for the Poplarville police force unless an agreement, requiring the city to pay the county for the service, is worked out by then.

The $85,000 annually sought from the City of Poplarville would go toward paying the salaries of two dispatchers, said Allison.

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Supervisor Anthony Hales, Sr., asked Allison if there would be further negotiations with Poplarville, and Allison replied: “I don’t know if we will have anymore negotiations, and unless they pick up those two salaries, we will quit dispatching for them on Nov. 1.”

The Poplarville Board of Aldermen is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. today and the issue will probably come up for further discussion by the five-member board.

Allison said city officials had requested the “call volume” generated by the city, “and I will get them that today.”

Replied Hales, “You delivered a letter to them about this, right? So how is it that the mayor blames Beats 1, 2 and 3 supervisors for the problem?”

“I don’t know,” replied Allison, “you’ll have to ask him about that.”

Allison, in a letter delivered to the Poplarville Board of Aldermen, asked the city to pay an additional $85,000 annually to the county to support two dispatchers, and said in the letter dispatching services by the county for the city would be cut off by Oct. 1 if the city did not agree to pick up the additional cost.

Poplarville officials said they were caught by surprise and asked for more time to work out the problem since they had already established their budget for the new fiscal year, which took effect on Oct. 1.

Allison agreed to move the deadline to Nov. 1.

Poplarville Mayor Billy Spiers last week called the situation a “major public safety issue.”

The crisis poses a major liability for Poplarville since a lack of dispatching, if that would happen, and a slow response time, could present the city with major liability issues and open it up to lawsuits. The Poplarville fire department also answers calls outside the city limits in the county and cut off of dispatching services could place some county residents at risk of fire. City officials said the problem also could impact Poplarville’s insurance ratings.

Currently, the City of Poplarville does not pay the county anything for dispatching services, and it has been that way for years.

Hales said that there used to be an agreement between the county and city, worked out when former Sheriff Joe Stuart was in office, “but that has expired,” and nothing was ever negotiated to replace the old agreement.

Poplarville city officials have said that Poplarville already pays county taxes and that this is a way to get more money from the city. However, county officials say it is legal for the county to charge the city for services rendered.

Hales also said that he was “irked” by some comments reported in the press, attributed to city officials. “I don’t think they realize what their duties are,” said Hales.

Said Allison, “I hope they will pick up the two salaries rather than try and do it themselves.”

Poplarville officials said that the county did not give the city enough time to work out the problem, setting a deadline only two weeks off after making the request by letter.

County officials on Monday said they had asked that the issue be addressed by city officials a year ago and again in May, but nothing was done.

In other matters, supervisors zipped through a 29-item agenda in about two hours.

The board then went into an executive session to discuss personnel and litigation matters.

The board then recessed until Wednesday, Oct. 17.