911 system might be on a fixed budget

Published 7:47 pm Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Effective Oct. 1, the county’s 911 system could be operating on a fixed monthly budget.

The Vicksburg-Warren 911 Commission Wednesday decided to recommend the Board of Supervisors and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen that the emergency communications system operate on a fixed budget of $46,000 a month for one year. The plan would allow 911 director Shane Garrard to budget the money as needed for the month and cost the city and the county less.

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The recommendation is expected go before the Board of Supervisors Monday.

The city and county splits paying the dispatchers’ salaries, with the city paying 65 percent of dispatcher salaries and the county 35 percent.

“You send us a resolution and we’ll sign off on it,” Mayor George Flaggs said. “We’ll try it for one year, and see what happens.

“I promise you, you will save money. We’ll do a resolution for one year to see if it works or not. We lock it in. If it doesn’t work, we’ll have to try something else. If any costs go over the projected $46,000 for the city portion then we get it out of surplus and nobody will be in the hole.”

Dispatcher salaries, particularly overtime pay, have been the subject of discussion by both board over the past five years.

Presently, the two boards pay the salaries of 17 full-time and four part-time dispatchers. An additional four part-time dispatchers are paid with revenue from the surcharge assessed on residents’ telephones.

Saving money

According to Warren County administrator John Smith, the plan can save the city and county several thousand dollars in the 2019 fiscal year.

Year to date, the county’s share of salaries for 2018 total $295,168, with the city paying $554,880 with two months remaining.

According to the county, the city’s share of 911 salaries for fiscal 2019 is projected at $619,682, while the county is expected to pay $333,675. Under the fixed amount plan, the city’s cost would be $552,000 — a savings of $67,682. The county would save $25,675.

“Explain that (the savings) to the Board of Supervisors,” District 1 Supervisor John Arnold, a commissioner, told Smith.

“You are going to be in full charge,” Flaggs told Garrard. “We’re still paying the salaries with a $1 raise, and it’s up to your management style. You’ll be a hero if you make it work.”

Garrard expressed concern over plan, saying the number of calls coming in often dictate the number of dispatchers.

“The call volume has everything to do with it,” he said. “We’ve been showing call volumes increasing over the years. We’re required by the state to have three people in there (the dispatch center) because we handle all three disciplines (police, fire and sheriff). But on days when the when the PD is rolling details, I have to call somebody in to handle their details.”

He said his plan involves using part-time dispatchers to cover such activity.

“I want to give the service to the public they deserve,” he said.

“I was glad all the commissioners were able to come up with an agreement for the benefit of the community,” Garrard said after the meeting.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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