Commissioners hear about 911 consolidation

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

By Karen Hall


Monday night it was the turn of the county commissioners to hear Lewisburg Fire Chief Larry Williams' presentation on 911 consolidation.

"I wanted to present it to you all," Williams said. "The main thing is to increase safety and improve response."

"Consolidation of public safety answer points," as it is formally known, will increase efficiency, decrease cost, and enhance service, Williams said.

Currently, all 911 calls are answered at the Lewisburg Police Department, and "rolled over" if necessary, to other departments, like the Sheriff's Department if the call is for law enforcement in the county, or the Emergency Medical Service if the call is for a health emergency.

This leads, in many cases, to the caller having to answer an operator's questions twice, which delays the response.

"We want to get help to the people that need it as quick as we can," said Williams.

With consolidation, every agency responding will get the same information, resulting in greater safety for the responders. EMS personnel will not unwittingly find themselves in the middle of a crime scene, which happened recently, Williams said.

Using figures developed by the National Emergency Management Association, Marshall County's consolidated dispatch center could be staffed with 12 dispatchers, instead of the total of 17 employed currently. Originally the plan was to have one supervisor and one information technology person, but now the 911 Board is leaning toward combining the supervisory and IT responsibilities in one job.

The local governments -- Marshall County, and the cities of Lewisburg, Chapel Hill and Cornersville -- will only be asked to pay the cost of personnel for the consolidated 911 dispatch center, "which you already do now," Williams said.

This will be a saving for the county and Lewisburg, but a big increase for the two smaller towns, which have been paying nothing.

"$352,000 is what Marshall County is out every year for dispatch," said EMS Director Bill Reuter. The new cost to the county will be closer to $318,000, Williams' figures show.

"We're pushing for better service and the byproduct will be cheaper service," Reuter said.

"When are you going to bring this to the smaller communities?" asked Commissioner Seth Warf.

"They know we're working on it," answered Reuter. "We're trying to meet with them more."

The 911 Board is meeting again at 9 a.m. today.

In other business, commissioners passed a continuing budget and tax rate and authorized the issuance of tax anticipation notes so that the county could keep operating after the fiscal year ends on June 30. Commissioner Don Ledford was the only "no" vote on this resolution.

All other financial resolutions passed unanimously, 15-0.

(With the resignation of Commissioner Tom Sumners, the commission is down to 17 members, and Commissioners Rocky Bowden and Richard Hill were absent Monday night.)

Commissioners also unanimously agreed to officially close Edwards Hollow Road, in the extreme southeast end of the county.

The road is 0.8 miles long and "David Smith owns the land on both sides," said Commissioner Kevin Vanhooser, who presented the resolution. "It's just a path, really."

"The county needs to provide a quit claim deed," Registrar of Deeds Dorris Wayne Weaver pointed out, and it was agreed this would be done.

The final bit of business was to agree to a contract for a new billing service for EMS. It's a three-year contract for the service offered by Ambulance Medical Billing. AMB is based in Paducah, Ky. and charges 4.5 percent of the money collected, but guarantees at least an 18 percent increase in the amount collected.

Reuter explained this to a meeting of the budget committee last week.

"A lot of the neighboring counties use it," he said then. "They love them."

"It's a very good deal," said Commission Chairman Nathan Johnson, and commissioners agreed with him, passing the resolution 15-0.