Why not try to make 911 more efficient?

Published 7:04 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2018

As a character once said in a movie, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

On Sept. 12, the Vicksburg-Warren 911 Commission recommended a plan to put the county’s 911 program on a fixed monthly income of $46,000 a month that would allow 911 director Shane Garrard to budget the money as needed for the month, and envisioning a savings for the city and the county.

The budget plan was a joint effort and developed by Fire Chief Craig Danczyk, city accounting director Doug Whittington and county administrator John Smith as a possible way to reduce overtime.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Under an interlocal agreement, the city pays 65 percent of the dispatchers’ salaries with the county paying 35 percent.

According to the county’s numbers, 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.

Apparently, that was not explained well to the supervisors, or they didn’t listen. They balked at the plan during a Friday work session, and then Monday decided to take another look at the proposal.

Board President Richard George claimed the plan would jeopardize public safety, and he wasn’t going to amend the fiscal 2019 budget the supervisors passed last week.

The supervisors, however, won’t have to amend their budget under the new plan, and if the project works out, they will save money.

But the key to the plan, as Mayor George Flaggs Jr. pointed out at the commission meeting, is management; how well Garrard can manage the 911 program to reduce overtime and still provide the service to the county.

True, the amount of activity the communications center has on a given day can affect the number of dispatchers needed, but Garrard has 17 full-time and eight part-time dispatchers available, and both boards apparently agree to give him the freedom to make changes in his staff.

It would seem this would be the time to look at ways to more efficiently run the 911 program and find a way to reduce overtime costs while keeping up service.

The commission’s recommendation on the monthly budget should be tried for one year. Let’s see if the supervisors have open minds and are as fiscally responsible as they claim to be.