Garrard 911 center out of money

February 01, 2004|JIM LOGAN

LANCASTER - Garrard County's 911 center is in deep trouble, and it's called on the Lancaster City Council and Fiscal Court for help.

The center, which will run out of operating money this week, will seek emergency funding from both panels Monday night at a special joint meeting in City Hall.

Sheriff Ronnie Wardrip, chairman of the 911 board, said the additional funding is necessary to make payroll. At the last fiscal court meeting in January, Wardrip warned that "people are going to quit showing up for work" if the center can't meet its payroll.

The 911 board needs $5,000 just for payroll, he said. Exactly how much the board will ask for Monday night depends on a number of factors, including anticipated reimbursements from phone companies.


The center is running an annual budget deficit of about $35,000, according to Wardrip.

Neither the emergency funding nor the future of the county-run 911 center, however, is assured.

The center is not only losing money, it's expensive to run. It costs nearly $366,000 a year to operate and, given the county's financial difficulties, some officials believe the county would be better off letting someone else take care of its 911 service.

The most prominent idea is to subcontract the service to the Kentucky State Police. All emergency calls would be routed through its Richmond post. Based on what other counties pay to have their 911 service handled by the KSP, it would cost Garrard $15,000 to $30,000 a year, Magistrate Joe Leavell said Saturday.

Wardrip, however, said the county is best served by a local 911 service, and is strongly opposed to moving it out of the county.

"I think we've come a long since we started 911," he said. "We've got quality people doing it. They're good dispatchers."

Besides, he said, "It's mandated to have 911 services. I think we need to keep it here instead of somewhere else."

Leavell says there's no need to keep the local center. What matters, he said, is having trained emergency dispatchers available to callers.

"You don't need a 911 center. You just need someone who knows their job." he said. "You can have a 911 in Paducah and it's just as effective as Lancaster."

To Wardrip, keeping the county service provides better service. Local dispatchers, he said, have an understanding of the area that could be crucial to saving a life.

But the sheriff knows that magistrates, already staring at multimillion-dollar county debts, are likely inclined to shift 911 services to the KSP. He said it would take "probably close to a year to get that done."

Leavell, who has already done some preliminary research into contracting out the service, says the switch to the KSP system could take as long as six to eight months and as few as two. He would be in favor of funding Garrard's 911 board until the KSP could take it over.

Leavell, Magistrate Walter "Tiddle" Hester and Bill Ledford of the 911 board recently visited the Campbellsburg post of the KSP, which handles 911 services for Owen, Trimble and Henry counties.

The post's 911 operation, he said, is effective and efficient. The counties pay $15,000 to $20,000 year for the service, depending on size.

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