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911 services could be moved to Frankfort

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By Robin Bass

The 911 committee recommended that the services of the Kentucky State Police should be used to provide emergency dispatch for Spencer County. Committee Chairman Nathan Nation told fiscal court Wednesday that state law enforcement dispatchers could not only provide better services than the current contractor, but at a much lower cost.

Initial estimates put the price tag at $89,000 – roughly the expense for KSP to hire two employees to help handle the additional call volume. The county’s present contract with Marlene Cranmer is on budget to costing $133,250 for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Signing a contract with KSP would “be the answer to all our needs,” said Nation.

Local police, EMS and firefighters would have immediate access to technology that would make their jobs safer and more efficient – technological advances such as computerized mapping, automatic vehicle identification and location, and law enforcement access to LINK/NCIC, a system that tracks fugitives, criminal records and call histories to specific addresses.

Residents would see a benefit as well, said Nation. Instead of experiencing a delay when 911 calls via cell phone are routed through KSP and then to local dispatch, emergency services could receive calls directly. Certified KSP dispatchers could also provide emergency medical instructions to callers while waiting for help to arrive – something the current contractor does not have the training to furnish, said Nation

Judge Executive David Jenkins said he wanted to see a detailed description of the services KSP intends to provide before acting on the recommendation.

“It would be irresponsible to say that we’re going to make a decision today. We need more information than what we have here,” said Jenkins.

The judge executive proposed organizing a meeting with Taylorsville Mayor Don Pay and attorneys representing the two governmental agencies to work out any legal details. In the meantime, Jenkins asked 911 committee members to begin the process of developing standard operating procedures that would spell out each emergency agency’s jurisdiction and duties.

Jenkins told the committee that he could only sign a contract on behalf of the county and that any agreement with KSP must be approved by other entities that will be using and paying for their services. Jenkins was primarily referring to the City of Taylorsville, but suggested that the Taylorsville-Spencer County Fire Department might also be included in that arrangement.

Nation said after the meeting that this was the first time anyone expressed that the fire department should help fund 911 dispatch services.

“When 911 was established, it was the county that set it up. It’s the county’s responsibility and the city just pays into it,” said Nation. He said that other agencies, such as the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, Kentucky Humane Society and private wrecker services benefit from the use of 911, and no one has suggested that they pay.

Commissioner Kathy Spears raised the issue again Thursday at a city commission meeting.

“Why are we paying $35,000, the county is paying $27,000 and the fire department pays nothing? Why has your dispatching been free? The fire department is getting just as much benefit from this,” said Spears.

Nation accused Spears of distracting from the issue.

“Our committee addressed the issues and what we proposed was fair,” said Nation.

The total expense incurred by 911 in Spencer County amounts to $182,250. This figure includes Cranmer’s contract for services at $133,250; $36,000 to AT&T for 911 phone and equipment services; $8,000 for maintenance and utilities; and $5,000 for office supplies.

Jenkins said that in addition to the $120,000 received each year in 911 fees, the city pays the county $35,000 – primarily for dispatchers to answer after-hours water calls from customers. Any remaining 911 expenses are the responsibility of the county, said Jenkins. Currently, that amount is running $27,250 annually.

Nation said the county could use the $120,000 in 911 surcharges to fund dispatch services and still have money remaining for other related expenses. The committee’s proposal, however, was for the city and county to reduce their contributions to $25,000 each so that local communication equipment could be updated. The committee also recommended that a 911 board be permanently established to provide oversight of 911 funds.

Jenkins said the issue could be discussed again at the March 1 fiscal court meeting.