Pottawatomie County Commissioner Melissa Dennis says a $75,093 allocation from the county’s use tax fund to cover a funding shortfall at the county 911 center buys everyone more time to look at what is needed — a merger of the Shawnee and county 911 centers.
Dennis, who said county commissioners are beneficiaries of the Pottawatomie County Enhanced 911 System, said, “We couldn’t not help them out,” so the funds for the 2013-14 fiscal year were approved.
“The centers need to be combined — that’s what the people want,” she said, adding she hopes the funding buys time “until there’s a plan.”
While there have been ongoing discussions between the county and city of Shawnee about such a merger, including tours of a similar facility in Muskogee, no agreements have been made.
The E-911 board, which oversees the county’s 911 center in Tecumseh, had asked voters in February to approve increases to 911 landline tariff fees to help fund operations at the center, but that measure failed to pass so the anticipated funding from that election didn’t materialize.
As a result, Tommy Arnold, director of the E-911 center, said the shortage for the 2013-14 fiscal year budget was going to be about $138,000.
Before seeking help from the county, Arnold said the E-911 board made about $60,000 in budget cuts, and that included one full-time dispatcher position.
Arnold, who said they’ve operated most of the year with 11 dispatchers, said one full-time position that was already vacant won’t be filled, so no personnel were affected by reduction of that full-time job.
“We just won’t replace that position,” Arnold said, adding that not filling that position isn’t expected to have an impact on anyone calling the 911 center.
While it would be ideal to have all 11 positions filled so three dispatchers are on duty around the clock, Arnold said there could be some slower peak times where there will be only two dispatchers on duty.
With the county funds now available, the Pottawatomie County Enhanced 911 System Trust Authority also has called a special meeting Thursday to consider approval of a balanced budget for 2013-14.
And while the payment from the county will help balance the budget for the E-911 Center this year, County Commissioner Randy Thomas said he feels this type of shortfall allocation is something they can’t do again next year.
“Let’s get serious about putting these centers together,” Thomas said, adding what both entities need is a “good marriage” between the two existing centers.
Page 2 of 2 - Dennis, who said a tour by city and county officials in recent months to Muskogee showed how that county merged many centers to create one unified center.
“They put five centers together — surely we can put two,” Dennis said.
A committee comprised of members from both the city and county haven’t met again since returning from that tour.
The funds going to the E-911 center are deriving from the county’s use tax fund, which Dennis said is used as a rainy day-type fund comprised of sales taxes revenues collected from Internet purchases.
Watch for updates.