Jail, dispatch services to cease July 29

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PARRISH — Faced with long-term bond payments and overdue federal taxes, the Parrish Town Council voted Monday night to suspend jail and police dispatch services on July 29.

The council approved contracting with the city of Cordova for those services in June, a measure that Mayor Heather Hall said would save over $70,000 in labor costs as the town seeks to repay $161,000 in debt to the Internal Revenue Service.

Hall, as well as council members William Smith, Jake Williams and John Softley, approved the cutoff date. Council member Bubba Cagle abstained, and council member Kathy Thomas was not present.

Cagle, who also abstained from the June vote, once again voiced his opposition on the closing of the jail and dispatch service.

“Even though this has been voted on, my stance is still the same. I still think it’s the wrong idea, and I still don’t agree with this decision,” Cagle said. “I don’t believe that we’re going to get the coverage that we need, and I don’t think  (Parrish) will be as safe as we need it to be.”

During the meeting, Hall clarified for concerned residents that the Parrish Police Department will remain open. 

“Closing our police department will be the last thing we ever do, and at that point our town will no longer be incorporated,” Hall said. “We are trying to do everything we can possibly think of to find ways to save money because we are spending more than we are bringing in.”

Hall said the town has to pay $85,000 a year on the bond to fund the splash pad that was taken out in 2010, which will have to be paid for the next 23 years.

The town is currently down 15 percent in sales tax revenue as well, according to Hall.

“We are spending out more than we are taking in and the biggest drain on our finances currently is labor cost,” Hall said. 

The town currently owes the IRS over $161,000 in unpaid payroll taxes, penalties and interest, resulting from a combined period stretching over the fourth quarter of 2012, all of 2013 and the first and second quarters of 2014.

The town faced a similar situation in 2005 when it owed the IRS over $250,000 in unpaid payroll taxes, interest and penalties that had accrued since the beginning of 1999.

The town paid on the debt for a while but stopped payments at some point and the IRS eventually forgave that debt, according to Hall.

Hall said that when IRS agents came to her office in May, they informed her that the town  was no longer viable because it has been operating in the red for the past three years.

“We had to come up with a financial plan that would hopefully make the IRS happy, and suspending our police dispatch and jail services is the only way we could see that was going to save us the most money,” Hall said.

Williams, who was absent for the June vote, said he thought the decision to close the jail and police dispatch office should have been made months ago.

“I wasn’t able to be here for last month’s meeting, but I’m not upset that the decision to close our jail and dispatch office was made without my input,” Williams said. “It was a decision that just kept getting pushed back, and I don’t like that we had to make this decision. But I do feel that it was necessary in order to save the town money, and I believe there are more changes that can and need to be made in an effort to save even more money so we can continue operating this town.”

In other business, the council also approved to amend a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) the town is currently applying for, which will help pay for some much needed road work in the town. The amendment to the grant will now include Third Avenue and Third Street, as well as Ada Bell Johnson Street and White Street.