Church seeks sheriff’s assistance, emergency renewed

Staff Writer

The shooting deaths of 50 people and injuries to dozens more at two mosques in New Zealand are a reminder that churches and schools remain vulnerable targets not just in the United States but around the world.

And at least one church in Clay County is upping its request for assistance with security and others may join in.

Wednesday, acting under a law approved by the Legislature several years ago, Clay County supervisors authorized Sheriff Eddie Scott to provide certified deputies for security at the First United Methodist Church in West Point.

The deputy will be paid by the church and also will provide security assessments, advice and other assistance, Scott told supervisors, noting it probably would total about four hours a week, mostly on Sundays.

“We haven’t had a request until now for certified officers but for sheriff’s offices and other law enforcement, helping our churches is standard protocol,” Scott said.

“It’s sad to say, but we all know our churches and schools are the most vulnerable. It is a concern, you never know when or where something might happen. In this case, we are going to be working with them in lots of ways,” Scott continued.

Supervisor Joe Chandler asked if the service could be provided to smaller churches in his district in rural areas in the western part of the county.

“Just have them call if they are interested or need or want something,” Scott replied.

In other action, supervisors renewed their emergency declaration resolution seeking state and federal financial assistance for damage from flooding and storms late last month.

The resolution has to be re-approved every 30 days.

Gov. Phil Bryant has asked for a federal emergency declaration for 45 counties. The group has far surpassed the $4.4 million threshold to meet federal damage standards, but the feds have not yet approved the request.

Lowndes County, where an EF-3 tornado caused two deaths and a long path of damage across Columbus, exceeded the $4.4 million mark by itself.

Clay County and West Point want assistance with road and bridge damage caused by flooded creeks in the western and southern parts of the county and near-record flooding along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and its tributaries in the eastern part of the county.

That damage to public property alone reached almost $300,000 not to mention extensive flooding issues to private homes and roads.