Mayor: City won’t help fund new 911 dispatcher

Published 12:22 pm Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Warren County E-911 Commission’s proposal to add more employees in the consolidated city-county dispatch center hit a snag Wednesday, when commission member Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs. Jr. said the city was unlikely to fund its portion of the proposal.

On July 29, the commission voted to recommend to the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the Warren County Board of Supervisors to increase the E-911 from 17 to 21 full-time dispatchers. Flaggs was absent from the July meeting.

“We did not and probably will not budget for the next year for additional people. I don’t know what the county’s doing,” Flaggs said Wednesday.

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District 1 Supervisor John Arnold, who is a member of the 911 board, said the Board of Supervisors has not formally discussed the proposal but he supported it as a 911 commissioner.

“Here at 911, we were appointed it to run it the very best it can run. This is what it takes. You can do anything you want to do but that’s what we think it will take, 21 to make it run smooth,” Arnold said.

Flaggs suggested using some of a $1 million account for 911 operations to pay for salaries.

“That million dollars won’t last long for salaries,” Tate said.

“Four positions won’t last long in our budget either,” Flaggs responded.

Arnold said he opposed tapping the operations account.

“I don’t think the board of supervisors are interested in that position. You have many things that can go wrong and you need the funds available for that,” Arnold said.

Instead, Arnold suggested giving a dedicated budget to the E-911 center and not allowing the agency to go over budget.

However, the 911 center does not have full control of its budget for salaries,  E-911 director Chuck Tate said.

“Be careful if you want to set a budget, because suddenly you won’t have the service you need because they can’t afford to pay for it. When you lock down a budget like that when everything else is flexible, you’re going to knock out some service. I don’t think that’s where you want to cut services,” Tate said.

For instance, he said, if the police department runs extra patrols during a grant-funding DUI enforcement period or other special events, additional dispatchers are needed.

“We don’t get reimbursed for it except for the interlocal agreement. There’s no money coming out of grants being used for those extra patrols,” Tate said.

Vicksburg Police Chief Walter Armstrong said he would work with the city’s grants department in trying to get additional funding for dispatchers in the jointly run E-911 center.

“I want to say that they will cover dispatchers at police departments and sheriff’s departments where the dispatchers work that for particular department. I know we have a combined dispatch here so I don’t know if the funds would cover it or not,” Armstrong said.

With overtime and benefits factored in, it costs about $73,000 a month to staff the dispatch center, Tate said.

The cost is split between the city and county.

Adding four full-time dispatchers could eliminate overtime, allow the center to be fully staffed and cost between $82,000 and $83,000 a month, according to figures Tate submitted in July.

Tate has said the proposal would allow five dispatchers to be in the communications center at all times. At least three certified dispatchers are required to run the center, and with 12-hour shifts, there are no breaks for workers, Tate said.

“Because of the way a situation worked out, we had five dispatchers in the comm center the other day, and the difference was amazing,” Tate said.

“People went home without being actually fried.”

Vicksburg Fire Chief Charles Atkins, Arnold, Sheriff Martin Pace, Flaggs Jr., Armstrong, Warren County Volunteer Fire Coordinator Jerry Briggs and Warren County Emergency Manager John Elfer hold Warren County 911 Commission seats.