JONES COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Jones County authorities are scrambling to make the best out of what's to come once the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians open their casino doors.
The small town of Sandersville, population 780, will soon seen an influx of traffic. The Choctaw Indians plan to open their $18 million casino the second week of December, and city fathers expect 27,000 extra people to come through their city month.
In response, Sandersville has increased its police department from one full-time officer to four. And the thought of the estimated amount of people has Jones County Sheriff Alex Hodge in distress.
"It draws a tremendous burden upon this department," said Hodge Tuesday. "We are over-tasked right now trying to provide protection and service to the county with limited man power. Our jail is full; it is over booked, under staffed."
Sheriff Hodge said his department is already short-staffed, and adding more deputies with no additional funding is impossible.
"Looking at our call value and over 700 square miles to patrol on a day-to-day basis and over 68,000 people currently that we are servicing - I feel like just for that project alone I was asking for an additional deputy per shift. That would have been four additional deputies and four additional correction officers just to keep up with that demand up there, but still does met the demands of the rest of the county."
Jones County Fire Coordinator Dan McKenna agrees
"Anytime that you bring 300,000 people, roughly 27,000 a month, you are going to see an increase in motor vehicle accidents.," he said. "You are going to see an increase in medical calls. Whether it is on the reservation or off the reservation, those incidents are going to occur."
Neither Sandersville Mayor Buzz Jack nor county officials have heard from any of the casino organizers about their plans for funding emergency costs.