Garrard will seek proposal from KSP to handle 911 calls

February 10, 2004|JIM LOGAN

LANCASTER - Garrard County Fiscal Court voted Monday to solicit a proposal from the Kentucky State Police to handle the county's 911 service.

The motion, prepared by Magistrate Joe Leavell in advance of the joint meeting with the county 911 board, is intended to clarify what services KSP could provide.

With the 911 center running deficits of about $70,000 a year and the county facing $9 million in debts, officials are under pressure to find ways to save money.

A leading idea is to close the center - which has an annual budget of more than $300,000 - and contract with KSP to handle emergency dispatching.


Preliminary estimates suggest the service can done for less than $30,000 a year.

Sheriff Ronnie Wardrip, who is chairman of the 911 board, said he doubts KSP can handle everything the local center does, including fire, police and medical emergencies.

"They need to come to us and tell us how they're gonna do it," he said.

Wardrip speculated that a KSP dispatcher in Richmond might simply take a 911 call and then tell a Garrard dispatcher to send an emergency crew, thereby slowing response time.

Leavell, who has become the most visible proponent for switching the service, said his research has turned up nothing but positive responses about KSP's work.

He said a magistrate from Henry County, which has made the switch, told him, "The best day your county will ever have is the day (you) sign that contract."

Henry County, Leavell said, pays KSP $30,000 to handle calls for its 17,000 residents. Garrard County has just over 14,000 people.

At Monday's meeting, Wardrip presented a budget for the center through June. An expected income of $111,468 and expenses of $147,113 would leave a deficit of $35,645, which would be made up equally by the Fiscal Court and Lancaster City Council.

But Wardrip said he likely could save more than $3,000 by replacing the company that services the center's equipment, cutting use of supplies and other belt-tightening measures.

And in previewing his budget for the next fiscal year - which calls for $336,007 in expenses and a $77,125 deficit - the sheriff estimated he could shave as much as $10,000 off the deficit through staff attrition and other cutbacks.

Another option floated Monday is for Garrard to join with two other counties - Lincoln and Rockcastle, for example - and create a regional 911 center. There were no cost estimates, but Wardrip said, "If you partner with other counties, it would be cheaper."

Simply being less expensive than the current system may not be enough.

"In the past year, Garrard County taxpayers have had their phone bill taxed an additional $2, their occupational tax doubled from 1 percent to 2 percent, and their property tax increased 5 cents per $100. I don't think they can take any more," Leavell said in a statement accompanying his motion for a proposal from KSP.

"We have the opportunity," he said, "to 'save' the taxpayer nearly $300,000 without taking away any service by simply allowing KSP to provide 911 service for our county."

The switch, he said, won't be easy, but it is necessary.

"The people it's gonna hurt are the people that's gonna lose their jobs, and that's bad," Leavell said.

"I'm getting flack from people who aren't even close" to the dispatchers, said Leavell, who said he's heard from a number of people who think the county is simply eliminating 911.

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