Jackson County

To save money, one Coast mayor is bringing back flip phones for city employees

Moss Point Mayor Mario King holds a smartphone and flip phone at his office Thursday. He did a needs assessment, took up city employee smartphones and reissued flip phones, where needed, to save money.
Moss Point Mayor Mario King holds a smartphone and flip phone at his office Thursday. He did a needs assessment, took up city employee smartphones and reissued flip phones, where needed, to save money. klnelson@sunherald.com

Mayor Mario King has rounded up smartphones at City Hall.

And he reissued flip phones to department heads and other workers he thought needed them. The days of running around with that kind of expensive and unnecessary equipment may be over.

Out of a budget that is millions, he said, he expects to save thousands in the coming years, but that’s worth it.

It’s not just about the extra cost of the phone plans and employee time, he said.

“Cellphones are one of the easiest ways to get into trouble. Emails and texts can be solicited if taxpayers are paying for them,” he said.

He started looking into city employee cellphones almost immediately. He looked at long distance calls on desk phones. He had a team look at bills and unlimited text plans. In some cases, he said, they even called numbers to see how city phones were being used.

They found a smartphone or two at the home of people who no longer worked for the city.

“Of course we took those,” he said.

Most of the department heads and administrators have turned in their phones. He asked for them. The city clerk didn’t need hers, he said, she stays at a desk all day. If she goes out of town to a conference, she can use her personal phone, he said.

Parks and Recreation has a nice camera it uses, so here’s no need for a phone that takes pictures. But they need to stay in touch. They got a flip phone.

Building inspectors will keep their iPhones. King was satisfied that the ability to email photos, set up files and transfer information from the job site saves time and money.

Meter readers can use their walkie-talkies, he said. They have a supervisor in the main office to stay in touch with. The director of economic development got a flip phone.

He did a needs assessment. Action was immediate.

Time management was a huge part of it, he said. But money was the incentive.

“It’s bigger than cellphones,” he said. “I implemented long distance codes. There were people using city phones to make personal calls. It’s against the law to use taxpayers money for that. Now each employee has a long distance code so we can track individual use.”

“I think there was no checks and balances with the system. I really don’t blame that on one individual.”

Complaints?

“No complaints,” he said. “I have had some strong players in this organization who have been an asset in getting this done.”

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