By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
A cutoff of 911 service to the Poplarville police department has been indefinitely postponed until supervisors, along with Poplarville and Picayune officials, can discuss the matter, a source close to the board of supervisors said Monday. It was the second time a cutoff deadline was postponed.
Also, Poplarville Police Chief Charlie Fazende told the Poplarville board of aldermen last week that Sheriff David Allison had told him that the Nov. 1 deadline he had given the City of Poplarville to agree to fund two dispatchers in the sheriff’s department, or have the 911 service terminated, was no longer valid. Allison told Fazende supervisors had agreed to help his office fund the two positions to the first of the year until the issue could be worked out, Fazende told aldermen.
Allison, in a September letter to the Poplarville board of aldermen, at first set an Oct. 31 deadline for the cutoff, later moved it to Nov. 1 to give aldermen more time to discuss the matter, and then postponed it indefinitely last week.
Calls for 911 from Poplarville residents come into the 911 dispatch service in the sheriff’s department and the dispatchers talk directly to Poplarville’s police units to dispatch them on the 911 calls. How Poplarville would handlle 911 calls if Poplarville were cut off from the service was not made clear, but Poplarville would somehow have to handle its own dispatching, which would cost the city a lot of money, if the city were cut off.
Poplarville officials pointed out to the county that Poplarville residents already pay $1 per month on their phone bill, businesses $2 per month, that goes to funding the 911 service.
Poplarville officials said it would cost them $85,000 a year to fund two dispatchers currently working at the 911 service. Allison said that if he did not get the help from Poplarville, he would have to lay off two deputies. He also told Poplarville officials budget constraints was forcing him to take the action.
The decision to cut off Poplarville had no affect on Picayune, or South Pearl River County, which operates a separate 911 service in South Pearl River County.
As the Nov. 1 deadline neared, Poplarville City Attorney Martin T. Smith told aldermen that his research of the law on the matter showed that the board of supervisors served also as the 911 board, and that there was a question of whether the sheriff had the authority to terminate the service.
Supervisors can appoint a separate five-member 911 board to manage the service, or act as the 911 board itself. In Pearl River Çounty, the five-member board of supervisors is also the 911 board, charged with managing and overseeing the service.
The question raised was how could the sheriff cancel the service, when supervisors were over the 911 service.
The source close to the board of supervisors said there is a possibility that the matter might be discussed at the Tuesday, Nov. 20, board of supervisors recessed meeting.
Poplarville Mayor Billy Spiers has talked to supervisors in an executive session about the matter; however, Spiers showed up again at the Nov. 5 board meetng but no discussions were held then because Picayune officials were not in attendance, officials told the Picayune Item.
The Poplarville board of aldermen has drafted a letter, stating its position on the matter. The letter was signed by Spiers and submitted to supervisors.