Supervisors not in agreement on E911 changes

Published 9:10 pm Friday, September 14, 2018

The Warren County Board of Supervisors is not in complete agreement with changes to the county’s 911 system, in particular operating under 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.

But during a work session Friday, the supervisors discussed the plan with Garrard and questioned why this was not discussed prior to their fiscal year budget that was just approved.

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Board President Richard George said he’s not in favor of amending the budget because he believes it will jeopardize public safety.

“We’ve already set a budget. We had a public hearing and published it in the newspaper,” George said. “Now, I don’t know which one of y’all want to go out in the public and say after we voted on it in a board meeting, ‘oh, that didn’t mean anything.’ This ol’ boy ain’t fixing to do that.

“This is not about controlling cost,” George said. “This is about serving people in an emergency. And we have done that. We went through an awful lot of trouble to build this system. The public will come in here fussing when you’re talking about their personal wellbeing and your ability to respond to their immediate needs.”

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.

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

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

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.

“I feel like the city set me up for failure with that $552,000 figure,” Garrard told the supervisors Friday. “The city is hung up on a number and I’ve tried to explain the operational side of it more than once. They’re just set on a number. That’s where their primary concern is.”

Garrard expressed concern over the plan during the commission meeting, saying the number of calls coming into central dispatch often dictates the number of dispatchers. He said the call volume has steadily increased over the years.

“We have 15,000 calls per month on average with three to four dispatchers per shift,” Garrard said.

Mayor George Flaggs favors the fixed monthly budget, but was “shocked” by the decision of the supervisors.

“I’m just in shock,” Flaggs said Friday. “To have an opportunity to save taxpayer money and it’s being rejected. I don’t know what to say. It’s their decision if that’s what they want to do. It’s just unfortunate they don’t get being fiscally responsible.”

The recommendation from the E911 Commission is expected to go before the supervisors during their regular meeting Monday at 9 a.m. on the third floor of the Warren County Courthouse.