911 Board hears from Cornersville
By Karen Hall
Cornersville's Town Administrator Taylor Brandon attended the 911 Board's meeting Wednesday, to talk about what consolidation of dispatch services could mean for his town.
Up to now, the town has been paying $50 per month to the Marshall County Sheriff's Department to get access to NCIC, the national crime information center, and nothing else. Under the consolidation plan being proposed, the town would be asked to pay about $22,000 per year for dispatch services. The amount of money due is based on the population, and the number of calls made in the last year. The same formula has been used to calculate the payments to be made by Chapel Hill, Lewisburg, and Marshall County.
"It's the amount (of money) that's the issue," Brandon told 911 Board members. "What are the alternatives if we can't pay?"
"You're in, or you're out," said Chairman Chris Gilbert.
"A big concern for my board is not having the ability to pay for it," said Brandon. "I haven't had any negative comments about participating -- just about the money. I see the need (for consolidation) and applaud everybody's efforts."
"We modeled it after McMinn County," said Emergency Medical Service Director Bill Reuter. "They review it every year. Call volume going down (as Brandon predicted it will) would affect your contribution."
It was made clear that if the Town of Cornersville does not opt in, 911 calls from Cornersville will still be answered, and the appropriate emergency services will be notified, but that's where it will end. Calls will not be timed or recorded, and there will not be a record to use as evidence in a possible court case. Police officers could not ask dispatch to check a driver's license or search for active warrants.
"We're trying to keep it fair for all taxpayers in the county," said Reuter. "We're just trying to provide a better service to all citizens."
"I'm going to get pushback," warned Brandon. "We're looking at a property tax increase to cover our own operations; $25,000 on top of that would be hard! We have some cash, and we could fund it in the first year, but we don't have the ability to replenish" that cash.
"The election (for three seats on the five-member board of aldermen) is in November," he continued. "I'm reluctant to do anything until then."
"I wish we had a magic answer," said Lewisburg Police Chief Chuck Forbis.
"I could recommend a property tax increase," said Brandon. "I'm not sure they would agree."
"You all have been getting something free for a long time," said Reuter. "It's going to take some explaining and some getting used to. We're looking at improving service for all the citizens."
"For the first (fiscal) year, you're only looking at half the cost," Lewisburg City Manager Randall Dunn pointed out, noting that consolidated dispatch would not start until the first of next year.
"Opt it now," urged Lewisburg Fire Chief Larry Williams. "You've got two years to figure out how to pay for it."
"They know about the efficiency and the improvement of service," Brandon told the board members. "It's not likely anyone will want to make the decision until after the November election."
"It's an important step," agreed Gilbert. "If you want something, you usually find a way to take care of it."
"Nobody on this board wants it to come down to somebody can't pay," added Reuter. "We don't want to see service decrease!"
Brandon admitted he would be finishing law school by the end of the year, and planned to leave his job at Cornersville.
"You can discuss it with my successor," he said.
"We truly understand," said Gilbert. "We don't want anybody to think we don't. We've been working on this (consolidation) for five years, and we feel like it's time to move. We're not just trying to take your money, we're trying to help folks, to make things better for them. Think about the repercussions if you don't have the service you need."
The repercussions could extend to an increase in residents' property insurance rates, due to a worse ISO rating, incoming Emergency Management Agency Director Steve Callahan pointed out.