The Mississippi State Fair begins Wednesday, but who will provide security outside the grounds and direct traffic is at issue. In the past, the fair commission has relied on the Jackson Police Department, while Hinds County Sheriff's deputies patrol inside the fairgrounds. But the City of Jackson is in a budget crunch, and the mayor says they can't afford the estimated $325,000 it will cost. At a news conference, Department of Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Cindy-Hyde Smith said she found out about the problem September 1.
"We had three meetings with the City of Jackson, saying let's come up with a solution and it was an all or nothing approach- 'you give us $325,000, or we're sending you one beat officer.' " said Hyde-Smith.
Hyde-Smith says they have individual contracts with sheriff's deputies to pay them for security and offered to do the same for JPD officers. But Mayor Tony Yarber said no. She says they're filing a lawsuit to force the city to provide services. Yarber said he can't comment on pending litigation. But his office released a statement saying they told the Mississippi Fair Commission several months ago, they could not provide security because of budget constraints. In September, the city council passed a budget that included cuts to the police and fire departments plus a one day per month furlough of workers. Commissioner Hyde-Smith.
"Sometimes it's just frustrating, but you know we all have reasons for what we do and the city's in a tough financial crunch, there's no doubt and we're just going to work through it," said Hyde-Smith.
Hyde-Smith says, they expect 700,000 people to attend the fair. JPD has provided 70 officers in the past. She says there will be adequate security, including officers with the Capitol Police Force and the State Fire Marshall's Office.