In May 29-June 4 issue By Greg Wells Times Journal Managing Editor
JAMESTOWN - What is missing from the budgets in both cities in Russell County is the $3,500-a-month expenditure to keep the county 9-1-1 emergency dispatch center open.
When asked about it, both mayors said they were in negotiations with the county and the two boards to merge the operations of the dispatch center and the Russell County Ambulance Board.
Both mayors stressed that their cities need the $42,000 a year to provide services in the cities.
"It will help the county's budget as well," added Jamestown Mayor Brooks Bates.
He said he understood that proposals for joining the two entities have progressed to the point that documents are being drawn up.
"I'm all for it," said Russell Springs Mayor Hollis DeHart. "We can really use that money back in our budget."
He said it would seem to be a winning situation for everyone involved.
"Mark Coots is an excellent manager and I know that that ambulance service runs very well and I expect dispatch to run just as well."
Coots said he is aware of the proposal but is reluctant to comment, pointing to another such agreement which had been worked out with the previous fiscal court under Ronnie McFall.
The present judge-executive, Mickey Garner, disavowed any knowledge of such an agreement shortly after taking office. That had caused some consternation among the members of the various boards as well as the employees.
"I'm kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop," Coots said.
He said he believed the ambulance board would be able to address the funding of the dispatch center, given that they had saved the money over the last few years for the construction of the new building they are in, and wouldn't have that cost in the future.
He said Matt McGaha was working on the legal aspects and he was expecting to include a provision that the county would stand good for any over-runs caused by taking over the system.
DeHart said the groups still have some issues to work out before the inter-local agreement that set up the dispatch center is changed.
He said he was envisioning a situation where the dispatch board continued to be responsible for the operations of the dispatch center and would answer to the ambulance board.
Russell Springs Police Chief Joseph M. Irvin said that would actually simplify issues for them.
"We'd be responsible to one entity instead of the four we are now," Irvin explained. "We just have to make sure the new agreement is in accordance with the user agreement we have for the NCIC system." The National Crime Information Center computer is system in the dispatch center which allows officers to request and receive information on the cars and people they stop.
He explained that the part of the system's operating agreement is that to insure the security of that system police agencies need to either be in direct control over the system or be the majority on the board that oversees it.
"The way I understand it there will be the ambulance board and then there will be a link board that oversees that computer's use," Bates said. "That will be made up of the police chiefs."
He directed the question toward the county attorney.
Assistant County Attorney Jeff Eastham said their office has been researching the matter and believed it would not be a difficult union. He said Pulaski County had recently done something similar.
He said the present proposal would combine the ambulance and dispatch boards with an advisory board set up to oversee issues related to the NCIC.
"The director of each department would remain intact, Eastham added.
As to what the Russell County Judge-Executive Mickey Garner thinks of the plan now, "We're working on something. I'd rather not discuss it now all of the details are not worked out."
Magistrate Greg Popplewell said he was "completely out of the loop."
Other than the Times Journal's questions about the issue he said he was not aware of any of the magistrates being told of any issues relating to either the dispatch center or the ambulance board.
The Times Journal is a weekly newspaper issued on Thursdays. It was first published on October 13, 1949, by Andrew J. and Terry Norfleet.
P.O. Box 190
120 Wilson St.
Russell Springs KY 42642
Russell County News is a weekly newspaper issued on Saturdays, and is mailed free to every address in Russell County, Ky. It was first published on February 1, 1913.
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Jamestown KY 42629