Budget cuts are to blame for 25 people losing their jobs with the Mississippi Forestry Commission.
Among those laid off are law enforcement positions, including the longtime chief investigator from South Mississippi. The more than two dozen lost jobs statewide comes in the wake of the commission's budget being cut by $3.2 million.
Assistant State Forester Russell Bozeman says it has been rough couple of days. According to Bozeman, the job cuts were directly related to the budget reduction of 16 percent in the fiscal year 2017 budget.
That 16 percent cut, he says, is substantial. Two thirds of that reduction was made up through operational efficiencies, but he says, one third required personnel cuts.
"I think it's going to affect all the counties," said Hancock County Emergency Manager Brian Adam.
Adam was disappointed to hear the news that two longtime arson investigators are among the employment casualties at the forestry commission.
"I hate that this is going to happen because I certainly think with all the arson woods fires, not just in this county, but all over the state. I think that's something that really should have been reconsidered," Adam said.
With two arson investigators among those losing their jobs, Adam says more responsibility will likely fall back on his office and the sheriff's department.
"We investigate all of them anyway, but it still helped to have the professionals that deal with that on an everyday basis," added Adam.
Russell Bozeman says the public shouldn't notice any reduction in service because of these personnel cuts, which include six vacant positions that won't be refilled.
Law enforcers, mechanics and administrative assistants are among those losing their jobs. Bozeman could not rule out the possibility of additional job cuts; which depend on future budget constraints.
Harrison County Fire Chief Pat Sullivan says he also has concerns about the cutbacks, but will have to wait and see what impact occurs. Jackson County Emergency Manager Earl Etheridge, says while there will be an impact over the loss of investigators, it would likely be worse if the cuts involved crews who help fight the woods fires.