Tuesday, March 28, 2017 - Updated: 10:23 AM
By Rachel Keller Collins
The Marshall County Fiscal Court members walked into last week’s meeting knowing the county’s E-911 service would be a major topic of discussion as a funding options presentation was expected and the need to discuss the future of its management was in order. They were tasked with making the decision during last week’s meeting and chose to hand management of 911 to Sheriff Kevin Byars, falling under his umbrella of duties, and keep the current board intact to serve as an advisory sub-committee for the organization.
Judge-Executive Kevin Neal revealed during the previous meeting the interlocal agreement that had created the advisory board managing E-911 had been expired since 2010 and so had been technically operating illegally, an issue that needed to be addressed immediately. He suggested the commissioners appoint Byars to take over management of 911, which they agreed to do but hesitated to cut out the other entities involved. Byars was also concerned with cutting out the other entities such as the city police departments, fire departments, EMS and KSP, all of which have had a seat at the table since the board’s inception.
“As far as having someone there at the table, so to speak, I want an advisory council because I don’t have all the answers and don’t claim to have all the answers and the only way to make a good, informed decision is to have as much information as possible and have input from everyone that’s using the 911 service,” he said.
In order to satisfy the court’s duties while acknowledging Byars’ request, the commissioners voted to give management control to Byars but leave the existing board intact as an advisory board. County Attorney Jeff Edwards said he would begin drafting an ordinance the commissioners would have to vote on before everything is officially settled.
Regarding the funding options, Dale Edmondson, 911 director in Campbell County, did attend the meeting as promised and answered a number of questions posed by commissioners and by visiting local elected officials such as McCracken County Judge-Executive Bob Leeper. He spoke at great length about the realization 911’s funding was “spiraling out of control, downward,” and scrambling to find a solution. He said the fee solution, which is still in place today, has been the game-changer for his 911 department, which was also being subsidized to the tune of approximately $300,000 a year by the Campbell County Fiscal Court at the time the fee was approved and enacted.
Edmondson said his county, like Marshall, had sat around for years awaiting funding solutions from the state before coming “to the hard and fast belief that the legislature is never going to address this.”
“It’s a local problem that requires a local solution and that’s not easy but it has to happen,” he added.
Edmondson said while the fee’s constitutionality was questioned all the way up to the Kentucky Supreme Court, that was for the most part “well received” by residents in his county because they valued the service and realized they were going to have to do their part if they wanted to ensure a law enforcement officer, firefighter or EMT would arrive when called.
Marshall County E-911 Director Misti Drew shared data and several funding options that were available including more than one variety of fee and increasing landline fees, the last of which all guest speakers agree is the least fair option.
Drew also discussed the volume of calls (which come in at more than 100,000 calls per year), the role of 911, the types of training dispatchers are required to have, the history of 911 funding and demonstrations of how those have failed, the numbers increase in court subsidies and future expenses 911 will incur in order to keep up not only with demand but also state requirements.
All in all, the court and its speakers spent more than an hour discussing the future of 911 and at the end of it all, Neal asked for the commissioners’ “buy-in.” He said there was no point in moving forward if they did not agree with the need to address “ a chest-wound with a band-aide.” The commissioners unanimously agreed it was time to move forward but Commissioner Bob Gold did request a specific dollar amount regarding a potential fee that would be tacked onto the property bill.
Neal said because everyone at the table agreed to buy in, 911 would move forward with scheduling town hall meetings during which the full presentation will be shared with the residents, who will be given the opportunity to share which direction they want the fiscal court to take regarding 911 and the options available.