North Tunica FD in funding crisis
Over a year ago, North Tunica County Fire District commissioner Stanley Jones warned that the fire station in the resort area would be forced to cut staffing if the district continued to be underfunded.
Now, those warnings have proven prophetic. As of January 1, 2016, the district cut the number of firefighters on duty from four to three. The move jeopardizes the district’s fire rating, which stands at seven currently but could be revised by the Fire Ratings Bureau within the Mississippi Insurance Commission. Any downgrade to the rating would adversely affect the cost of insurance for property owners in North Tunica County.
“It seems like the county is taking public safety and putting it on the back burner,” Jones said in an interview this week.
The North Tunica County Fire Protection District provides emergency services to homes and businesses in a defined section of the county. The district includes all of the casino properties; several large apartment complexes: industrial properties Schulz and GreenTech Automotive, with Feuer about to come on line; the outlet mall; and Tunica National Golf & Tennis Center. North Tunica firefighters also respond to car accidents in the north part of the county. The district has mutual aid agreements with other departments in the area such as the Tunica Fire Department and departments in Eudora and Walls, but assistance from all of those departments is at least 15 minutes away.
County credit rating downgraded to BBB
On January 6, 2016, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services lowered its rating three notches to BBB from A on Tunica County’s general obligation debt. S&P also placed the county on “CreditWatch with negative implications.”
“The downgrade is based on our view of the county’s deteriorating financial position, reflected by its very weak budgetary flexibility and budgetary performance, as well as vulnerable financial management practices,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Oscar Padilla. “The CreditWatch action follows repeated attempts by Standard & Poor’s to obtain timely information of satisfactory quality to fully access our rating on the securities in accordance with our applicable criteria and policies.”
River forecast to crest today at 40.5 feet on Memphis gauge
Last week at this time, a rare winter rise was being watched closely, with projections of a crest in Memphis of 43.5 feet on January 9. The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee Board had announced in advance the closure of the levee on January 8. And the interruption of business at Tunica’s casinos was a very real possibility.
But this week, the crest has been revised downward, the Levee Board has changed course, and the county casinos are taking precautions but don’t expect to see any closures due to flooding.
‘We’re looking at a crest of 40.5 feet on the Memphis gauge on Friday (January 8),” Tunica County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Randy Stewart said Tuesday. “The river will crest here in Tunica about a day and a half after that.”
Supervisors start new term with personnel shifts
Tunica County supervisors for the years 2016 through 2019 picked new administrators and other officials in their first meeting Monday.
After a 30-day transition period, Adrian McKay steps into an expanded role, taking over as county administrator from Michael Thompson, who has served in that position since December 2013. McKay has been the county comptroller since March 2014. Senior accountant Delilah Steele steps into the comptroller slot.
The reshuffling in the administrative department took place early in the January 4 Board meeting. District 4 supervisor Henry Nickson’s motion to appoint McKay was approved 5-0.
District 3 supervisor Phillis Williams then made a motion to hire John Perry as Board attorney. That motion also passed on a 5-0 vote. Perry, a Southaven lawyer, immediately came to sit at the Board table to begin his duties.
Nickson then moved to appoint Steele as comptroller. Prior to the vote, District 2 supervisor Michael Johnson asked if the job had been posted.
“Have we taken resumes or had interviews?” Johnson asked. “In this case, I would love to have feedback from the county administrator and the Chancery Clerk. We need to be sure we’ve got the right candidate.”
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