A Marshall County commissioner was met with resistance when he requested that issues surrounding first responder radio communications be top priority for the fiscal court.
District 2 Commissioner Kevin Spraggs moved to dispense with the agenda and discuss ceasing all future projects and funding for the E-911 center, except where contractually obligated, until the current radio problems are resolved.
“I think that needs to be front and center of our attention right now,” Spraggs told the court.
Judge-Executive Kevin Neal advised the court that it could only be discussed in executive session due to its close ties with personnel issues. However, Neal said the court could not move into executive session with a motion on the table and asked Spraggs to remove the motion.
Spraggs then asked County Attorney Jason Darnall on whether he could discuss the issue. Despite Neal’s objections, Darnall said it could be openly discussed provided it was purely fiscal in nature and did not broach personnel issues.
First District Commissioner Justin Lamb seconded Spraggs’ motion in the spirit of discussion, and was the only other one to vote in favor. District 3 Commissioner Monti Collins and Neal were against it, feeling that the personnel issues should be dealt with first and the motion died.
Spraggs then made his intentions clear regarding any further payments pertaining to the E-911 center.
“On the payment of the bills, going forward, I will not be approving the payment of any future bills related to the construction of the facility or the equipment or services for the new facility, other than those already contractually obligated to pay, until the radio situation is fully resolved to the satisfaction of the first responder heads,” he said. “If that changes at any point in time, I will notify the court.”
After a near two hour executive session, the court immediately adjourned.
The friction at the meeting came on the heels of a recent petition headed by Marshall County Sheriff Eddie McGuire. The “no confidence” petition, directed to the county’s E-911 director Chris Freeman, was signed by 150 first responders.
The petition lists a variety of reasons, including the dangerous and unreliable radio communications network, devastated relationships with the Kentucky State Police and surrounding county agencies, limited to no discussion with department heads concerning communication issues, commandeering radio systems without discussions from agencies involved, and unreasonably high spending on unnecessary projects despite the need for safe and reliable radio communications.
The petition also reads that “emergency responders feel the attitude and performance of Marshall County E911 is at an all-time low, which jeopardizes responder safety.”
McGuire said all they are asking for is a “voice” at the table.
He also told the Tribune-Courier about recent incidents where deputies were involved in dangerous situations where they could not communicate properly. One such incident involved a man in body armor, brandishing a rifle near Cambridge Shores. One the deputies on the scene had to rely on his cell phone for communicating with dispatch.
“The basic needs of the first responders are not being met,” McGuire said.
A statement from Darnall Wednesday stated, “nothing of any evidentiary value” had been presented to the county judge-executive or fiscal court, including the petition. However, he said if and when such evidence is presented in the proper manner, the court will address it.