Joe P. Asher
The possibility of consolidating Harlan County’s emergency dispatch services took the forefront during a meeting of the Harlan County Emergency Management E-911 Advisory Board on Tuesday.
According to Board Chairman David McGill, consolidation will be “for the good of the county.”
“I’m not for any one agency getting this. I’m not for the county getting it. I’m not for KSP (Kentucky State Police) getting it. I’m not for headquarters getting it. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that for us to be a better 911 system I think it should all be handled by one agency. There’s a lot of redundancy going on,” stated McGill.
Harlan City Police Chief Mike Thomas said from his experience and things he has seen “headquarters isn’t going anywhere.”
‘We’re still dispatching for us,” said Thomas.
Harlan County Sheriff Marvin Lipfird explained his concern about how the new system will be financed.
“Until we know what this is going to cost, how many dispatchers post is actually going to need — we don’t know if we can afford to pay for those dispatchers,” said Lipfird. “We can probably pay for one…definitely not three or more. I can tell you right now the 911 Board doesn’t have that kind of money.”
Lipfird pointed out the amount of available funds may be decreasing.
“The coal industry is starting to get worse, and we’re starting to lose people. We lose people — we lose land lines. We lose land lines — we lose revenue,” said Lipfird.
In summing up his position, Lipfird said he is “not willing to vote to buy a pig in a poke until he knows the numbers.”
“I want the numbers because we have to be sure we’re able to pay for this,” said Lipfird. “Personally, I’d like to see the services streamlined. But, if we can’t afford to streamline it or it comes back the cost is greater than what we can afford, then it’s like your own personal budget, if you spend more than you make you’re broke.”
Kentucky State Police Communications Supervisor Raymond Day explained that even if approved, there will still be steps to go through in order to hire a dispatcher.
“As far as knowing how much to spend, Frankfort will fill in the blank for that. If we do one person it will be base salary plus benefits package whatever that totals up to,” stated Day. “If the board votes to pay for one, then we can go through the rest of the process to get KSP and state personnel to do what they have to in order to create a position at post, because we don’t have one. Even if the board voted to actually hire somebody, until the state raises the cap on how many dispatchers we can have we can’t hire anybody.”
According to Day, one advantage offered by consolidation is to better insure safety for everybody.
“If we do end up with it, that’s the easiest quickest most streamlined way for the dispatch center to know…where the closest unit is to help no matter who it is,” said Day. “In the grand scheme of things, it will be a better officer safety plan just because you’ll be able to send whoever’s closest no matter what the uniform is. And that’s the way I want it. The color of the car shouldn’t matter.”
The board decided to seek more information before making a final decision.
A motion was made and passed for a cost analysis to be completed to determine the actual cost for the county to create its own dispatch center. It also ask that the Kentucky State Police and Harlan City Police Department advise the board what it will cost for each agency to cover all dispatch services including E-911.
In other board activity:
* A motion was made and passed to request a call analysis to show the percentage of calls being handled by each agency.
* A motion was made and passed to table a discussion concerning the distribution of pagers.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510 or email@example.com