Saturday, October 22, 2016
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The Tunica Times • P.O. Box 308/986 Magnolia Street, Tunica, MS 38676

Slow Fall

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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