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911 may call emergency meeting to deal with funding

[11/29/01]The commission that oversees 911 operations here may have to call an emergency meeting next month to deal with whatever city and county officials work out for funding.

The commission, comprising mainly city and county department heads and elected officials, was created in 1989 to administer centralized dispatching of emergency personnel.

At its meeting Wednesday, routine business such as paying bills was addressed, but Mayor Laurence Leyens, who represents the city board on that commission, said the panel should consider getting together again before its next regularly scheduled meeting.

“I’m concerned that with this interlocal agreement we may have to call a meeting and re-vote this,” Leyens said. “If we have to go from a dispatch center to transfer.”

The next regular meeting of the commission is at 9 a.m. Dec. 19. The board has to give 24 hours’ notice to hold an emergency meeting.

The dispute between city officials and county supervisors is over how much funding Vicksburg taxpayers should contribute to the center operations.

The 911 center gets virtually all its money from three sources: Monthly surcharges on residential and business telephone bills, the city treasury and the county treasury.

Leyens has said that city taxpayers should not have to pay 75 percent of costs not covered by phone surcharges, as recommended by the 911 commission, because residents and businesses in the city already pay 65 percent of county taxes.

He said Tuesday that Vicksburg may pull out of the dispatch center if the county does not agree with the city’s proposal to split the cost based on population. While that wound not affect the public’s ability to dial 911 and get emergency help, it would mean creation of a separate dispatch center.

City and county officials are also not in accord on how much Warren County taxpayers should pay toward the cost of public ambulance service outside the municipal limits. Vicksburg officials want a $95,000 increase over the allocation supervisors made for last fiscal year. Both agreements were due Oct. 1.

The 75/25 split for 911 funding had been used up until last year when the previous city administration under former Mayor Robert Walker pushed for a new method. Last year, the city was responsible for funding salaries for seven dispatchers, the county responsible for three and 911 funded the remaining four dispatchers with 911 funds.

Earlier this year, the 911 commission voted to recommend that the city and county resume funding under the 75/25 split because the method used last year had depleted 911 reserves. The center’s budget now tops $800,000 per year.