Is county going to pull out of E911 consolidation agreement?

Published 11:39 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2017


NATCHEZ — City and county leaders will meet Thursday to discuss the future of consolidated dispatch.

At the supervisors meeting Tuesday, Board Attorney Scott Slover asked supervisors for direction on the agreement, which will expire on Oct. 31.

Email newsletter signup

While supervisors agreed to have a joint meeting with city officials, several county leaders suggested potentially returning to a separate dispatch systems.

“It’s about to the point where we should go back to what we were doing,” Board President Mike Lazarus said. “It seems like we are both spending more money. This is costing a lot of money.”

The city delayed last week making a decision on approving its contribution to dispatchers’ salary, and some county leaders have suggested the county should pull out if the city does not fund its share of dispatchers.

Supervisors are looking for the county to fund five dispatchers and the city 10. Before consolidation occurred, the sheriff’s office had five dispatchers and the police department had 10 — five for police, five for the fire department.

However, by last month only 14 dispatchers have been hired, including the dispatch supervisor. One former police department dispatcher chose to remain with the department as an assistant to the police chief.

Part of the city leader’s concern was paying for 10 when only nine employees went over, interim city accountant Megan Edmonds said last week. The city also expressed concerns about the costs adding up, such as software costs for the fire department to purchase the system used by the dispatch.

A larger potential cost listed by police was having to hire someone to perform duties that were being handled by dispatchers when the departments were separate, but is no longer being handled by dispatchers.

A dispatcher’s annual salary is approximately $33,600.

The sheriff’s office kept two dispatchers to perform duties such as handling the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) reports, but the police department did not, expecting consolidated dispatch would file the reports.

Emergency Management Director Robert Bradford asked supervisors to keep the faith in the consolidation system.

“We have come along way,” Bradford said. “We need to stay on the lead horse.”

Bradford said the county cannot put money on people’s lives.

“Let’s stay on course,” Bradford said. “If we turn around and go backward, we will have to work just as hard.”

Bradford said deconsolidating would also cost money, but he did not have a figure.

In the start up phase, Bradford said it would be more expensive. Over time, the two entities sharing equipment could lead to savings.

However, Bradford said the main reason to consolidate was always about saving lives. Bradford said in the old system, one major concern was the way the two ambulance services were rotated between two dispatch entities.

The lack of communication between sheriff’s office and police department dispatchers in the old system sometimes led to ambulances arriving late, he said.

“AMR and Metro, they can respond faster now that they are not on rotation between the two entities,” Bradford said.

Bradford said he hopes city and county leaders decide to stick with consolidated dispatch Thursday. The meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. at city council chambers.

“We are going to work through it, it is just a challenging time,” Bradford said. “We just have got to get the budget part right.”