New MFD radios OKed

Mendenhall’s Mayor and Board of Aldermen gathered on September 4 for their regularly scheduled meeting.

The board discussed upgrades for the Mendenhall Fire Department in the form of new radios. Mayor Todd Booth said that there have been miscommunications when responding to calls between the fire department and Mendenhall Police Department. It has been determined that the miscommunication is due to a breakdown in radio communications. The police department is currently operating on the Mississippi Wireless Information Network (MSWIN) radio system. According to the Mississippi Wireless Communication Commission, MSWIN offers statewide coverage and is the only statewide interoperable emergency communication voice and data network available to both state and local public safety entities. This gives agencies the ability to coordinate communication with other agencies and share resources.

Police Chief Candy McCullum said, “With these radios you can stand in Gulfport and talk to somebody in Senatobia with the right equipment.”

MSWIN is what many of the state’s first responders are using, but the Mendenhall Fire Department is still using an older system. So when coordinating emergency calls between the fire department and police department Booth explained that dispatchers have to relay information while switching between two systems. This leads to breakdown in communication at times. Booth said, “The PD already has these walkies, and the fire department needs them bad.” Chief McCullum said that the fire department would have to request a fire channel to establish themselves on the network. He also said that the police department will be establishing a “talk around” channel which he described as car to car communication.

Deputy City Clerk Latasha Millis said that in order to establish new frequencies MSWIN would need signed authorization from the fire department.  Alderman Tim Gray had concerns about radios being used improperly and emergency information being leaked. McCullum explained that the radios are identified by serial number and can be terminated remotely at any time in case of information leaks.

The board agreed that the fire department needed the upgrade, but disagreed on how to pay for them. Booth suggested that the radios be bought using municipal fire funds. He said since the city will have to borrow money to purchase a fire truck, he did not think it was wise to borrow for radios unless it was necessary.

The city has a quoted price of $60,619 with Shanks Communications for the purchase of new radios which is good for 30 days. After purchasing the radios there will be approximately $50,000 remaining in municipal fire. The motion passed with a majority vote. Robert Mangum and Tim Gray opposed.

CMPDD and GIS sent representatives to discuss new possibilities with interactive mapping for the city. Booth stated that this will make finding sewer lines and identifying which water lines to shut down for repairs easier. The company offers an in-depth utility mapping service capable of adding multiple layers of information. Following the presentation the board unanimously voted to move forward and allow the mayor to enter into a contract. The new service will cost the city $3,000 initially followed by a $50 hosting fee each month.

The board accepted the resignation of Shane Brown and Brandon Dearman from the police department. Brittany Walker and Tiffany Bright had status changes for their positions as dispatchers. Oriena Burk and Brandon Cooper were hired as part time dispatchers.

The board had a lengthy discussion about a status change for city mechanic Richard Allan Sanders. The board discussed making Sanders the director of the Mendenhall Sportsplex. The change was questioned by Alderman Tim Gray, who had a problem with the duties and responsibilities of the job description. In essence the city has been responsible for the maintenance of the Mendenhall Sportsplex in terms of cutting grass and making repairs to facilities. Tony Olney of the Mendenhall Sports Club has been responsible for organizing teams, scheduling games, and bidding for tournaments, all of which were a part of the director job description. The Mendenhall Sports Club also handles all of the money collected. at the Mendenhall Sports Club from concessions and registration fees.

It was suggested that Sanders work under Olney to learn what he does, but Board Attorney Wesley Broadhead advised against blending employees and money. He explained that there was liability in placing a city employee under the direction of a non-city supervisor and vice versa. Gray agreed and said, “If the city is going to be over the program, then be over the program.” He used Magee as an example and stated that their Board of Aldermen votes on everything concerning their sports program.

Broadhead said, “I can never tell you all to blend these monies together but if you define the responsibilities in the relationship then you can do it.” Booth posed a question of who should be in control of the money since it was being made using city facilities. From Sanders initial duties description it seemed as though the city would take the responsibilities of the Sports Club, but the money collected would still be managed by the Sports Club. In the past the City Board would donate $5,000 to the Sports Club at the beginning of each year. They have since stopped since finding out this practice was illegal.  In order for the city to begin handling money the employee responsible would have to be bonded. Broadhead advised that the two entities remain separate and that Sanders duty as director be amended. After discussion the Board agreed to make sanders the Coordinator of Parks and Recreation instead of the director, and made necessary amendments to his job description. Alderwoman Jana Miller said, Sanders can work closely with Olney with the intentions of learning, and possibly taking on more responsibilities at a later date.

Following this discussion James Curtis was employed at the new city mechanic taking the position left behind by Sanders. The board entered executive session to discuss personnel before adjourning the meeting.