Second Thoughts On Privatization


The Jackson City Council got a taste of the realities of outsourcing at its Monday night work session when the council noted a $14,000 purchase order from Jackson business NAPA Auto Parts for city vehicle parts on the claims docket.

Council President Leslie McLemore requested more information by Tuesday's meeting from City Administration Director Rick Hill on the steep price tag.

"We'd like more explanation for some of those items on there," McLemore told Hill, explaining that he wanted a breakdown on costs and the proposed relationship between the city and NAPA "being floated by Public Works."

NAPA is one of the candidates to which the city is considering outsourcing its parts division. The city currently shops at a variety of local dealers for car parts, but the Division of Public Works is considering entering an exclusive contract with NAPA and closing down the parts division of its municipal garage.

The purchase order fostered doubts in Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon about entering into an exclusive contract with a privately owned company.

"If we're going to go exclusively with NAPA to buy our parts ... we (need) to look more closely at that and see where the cost savings are. NAPA's not the only game in town, and we need to take proposals," Barrett-Simon said.

Hill said the $14,000 figure was "small potatoes" compared to average city parts costs. City vehicles—particularly police cars—use special-order, heavy-duty parts. A regular alternator on a patrol vehicle, which can idle for hours at a time, would burn out in a fraction of the time as a police-issue alternator.

Jackson Mayor Frank Melton, whose administration first proposed the possibility of outsourcing the part division, also expressed second thoughts on the notion.

"I really think that … we need to look at our whole procedure for dealing with automobiles," Melton said. "One of the decisions we need to make is do we need to outsource or do we hire some people that would be less expensive."

The city already employs two people in its parts division, a drop from three employees last year. The parts division has been shrinking for years as the city continues to eliminate vacant positions.

The council also resolved during the Monday work session to ask the city of Flowood to reconsider allowing wireless carrier Cellular South to build a 180-foot cellular tower near I-55 and I-20. The Flowood board of aldermen will meet next Tuesday to discuss rezoning the proposed site for construction of the tower, but council members say the tower—which the board proposes to build directly at the city limits—would degrade the view for people entering the city from I-20.

Jackson Franchise Services Administrator George Brown said he has never seen "a tower of this size this close to an interstate."

Brown said the city had "an inter-municipal agreement" with Flowood that would allow the city to vent its concern.

"We could make the argument that the (tower) location would more directly impact the city of Jackson than Flowood," he said.

The city of Jackson can have a representative at the Flowood board of aldermen meeting, and the city could also file a bill of exceptions opposing the re-zoning that would allow the construction, though the city has little legal recourse if Flowood proceeds as planned.

The board of aldermen has likely received approval and permits for the construction prior to the Tuesday vote, and relocating the tower would force a new permit and approval process upon the city.

The Jackson Free Press could not reach Flowood Mayor Gary Rhodes for comment on the likelihood of Flowood voluntarily nixing the re-zoning.


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