Fire district files complaints

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Asks county to continue searching for alternatives to current dispatch

By Robin Bass

The Spencer County Fire Protection District has called for further review by city and county leaders into their contracted service with dispatch.

In a letter dated August 10, fire board Chairman Glen Goebel stated several reasons for examining the capabilities of the current service providers. Among his concerns were that dispatch can not properly process wireless 9-1-1 calls or access a computerized database known as NCIC for local law enforcement officers. NCIC (National Crime Information Center) provides police with immediate information such as criminal record history information, fugitives, stolen properties, and missing persons.

Goebel also expressed concern about a single on-duty dispatcher handling the ever-increasing call volume of EMS, city police and the sheriff’s office.

“Dispatch is still working with the same staffing levels as it was in 1990 when there was just over 6,000 people in the county,” wrote Goebel.

Recent statistics place the county’s population near 17,000.

“All we want is for the 9-1-1 committee to get back together and do an in-depth study,” said Goebel Friday afternoon. “All we want is the safety of the citizens of our county. All we want is a review.”

The 9-1-1 committee, also known as the Emergency Dispatch Services Advisory Committee, was charged last May with the task of researching the county’s dispatch options and providing a recommendation to fiscal court by the end of October. Since forming, the committee has met with representatives from Kentucky State Police to hear what services they could offer the county.

Magistrate John Riley, a member of the committee, said it is still an “active process” and that the committee has been working to collect information about the needs of residents and emergency personnel.

 At Monday’s fiscal court meeting, magistrates unanimously approved a motion to advertise a request for qualifications of agencies or companies that could operate Spencer County’s dispatch. Replies to this request will not be asked to include prices for contracted services.

“This is to see who’s out there. Who’s interested and what kind of qualifications they have,” said Riley.

Riley also suggested Monday that fiscal court look into re-establishing the 9-1-1 board by county ordinance and creating a new interlocal agreement with the city commission. He said the last agreement expired two years ago.

In addition to the letter from the fire protection district, fiscal court and city commission received a list of nine calls where the fire department believed dispatchers made errors on incidents in the past two months.

Marlene Cranmer, Spencer County’s dispatch coordinator, and her husband Russ attended meetings of both governmental bodies to speak in their defense.

“I think some of this stuff is picky,” said Russ Cranmer, who was addressing city commissioners Thursday afternoon. “Three months ago, we had not had one complaint about dispatch.”

Cranmer, a Spencer County Sheriff’s detective, said that while the contract has been in his wife’s name since 2006, he has always played a vital role in dispatch. The couple first accepted a $56,000 contract in 1993 to perform the service. This year, their contract with the county is $125,000.

The county’s 2009-10 budget has allocated $133,250 this year for dispatch services. Judge Executive David Jenkins said that additional funds are intended for phone bills and office supplies. Of that amount, the City of Taylorsville will pay $28,800 annually.

After a review of the 9-1-1 tapes at the commission meeting, Fire Chief Nathan Nation said at Monday’s fiscal court meeting that he was withdrawing two of the nine complaints against dispatch.

“We just want to see our dispatch do well,” said Nation. “The letter did not suggest a change, it suggested that the committee continue to look into the issues. We need a plan and an investment into new technology.”

At both meetings, Cranmer said he had no problem with the committee researching options. He simply objected to the way the fire board handled the situation by going to city and county government with their complaints instead of coming straight to him.

“It’s good for the county to research dispatch,” said Cranmer, “if they can do it cheaper, then fine.”

But after Monday’s meeting, Cranmer said he doubted the county could find trained dispatchers at such a low cost. If the county absorbed dispatch as another government department, then dispatchers would have to be provided insurance benefits, state retirement and hazardous-duty pay.

“If we go with the state police, we could cut that figure in half, then we could get the equipment we need” for other emergency services, said Goebel. “The way I see it is we have three options: stay with what we have, let the county take it over, or go with KSP.”