This letter is in response to the article "Dispatching Charges May Increase in County" that ran in your paper on 12-13-2007. As a tax payer of the county and a land line (home phone) user I feel compelled to voice my concerns on how the Scott County Commissioners have handled the 911 in general.
Some quotes from Mr. Burger, "We don't want to blindside anybody," "We want to make them aware of what's on the horizon." As an individual who has been aware of this for several years and has been fighting this very idea, it is time for the rest of the county residents to hear the "rest of the story".
Prior to the conception of the 911 service a majority of the counties smaller agencies were dispatched by the Scott County Sheriff's department. Once a caller dialed a seven digit number and the call was received it was determined by the dispatcher which emergency service should respond (police, ems, fire, etc.) that emergency service was then dispatched or the call was transferred to the appropriate dispatching agency to dispatch their units. These services were provided free of charge to the emergency agencies that were dispatched from the Sheriff's department. I say free but you and I as tax payers were still paying for this dispatching.
With the passing of the land-line tariff/911 surcharge/tax, an Enhanced 911 system was developed and the empty promises were coming to light. Initially and prior to the vote, it was presented to the public that all emergency agencies in both Scott and New Madrid County would be dispatched by one central dispatch center with the belief that the land-line tariff would provide enough funding for necessary operations. At some point in time and I'm sure after many "turf" battles we ended up with our current system, everyone with their own little share of the pie, but not a single share big enough to properly fund that agencies needs alone. This end result has ended up with four separate dispatch centers in Scott County alone, Sikeston D.P.S., Scott County 911/Scott County Sheriff's Department, Scott City Police Department and Miner Police Department.
I will only address the issues with the Scott County 911 system, which I have first hand knowledge about. I do believe the county commissioners when they say that the funds from year to year are declining due to county residents dropping the land lines in favor of cell phones. I do believe that an alternative form of funding must be found. I do believe that the E-911 system needs to be funded for my safety as well as that of everyone either living in the county or traveling through it. I also know that the current commissioners have refused to follow the Missouri State Statutes ( Missouri Revised Statutes Chapter 190, Emergency Services Section 190.328, Election of board, Christian and Scott counties, when--terms.
190.328. 1. Beginning in 1997, within the area from which voters and the commission have approved the provision of central dispatching for emergency services by a public agency for an area containing third or fourth class cities in counties of the third classification with a population of at least thirty-two thousand but no greater than forty thousand that border a county of the first classification but do not border the Mississippi River, the initial board shall consist of two members from each township within such area and one at-large member who shall serve as the initial chairperson of such board.
2. Within the area from which voters and the commission have approved the provision of central dispatching for emergency services by a public agency for an area containing third or fourth class cities in counties of the third classification with a population of at least thirty-two thousand but no greater than forty thousand that border a county of the first classification, voters shall elect a board to administer funds and oversee the provision of central dispatching for emergency services. Such board shall consist of two members elected from each of the townships within such area and one member elected at large who shall serve as the chairperson of the board.
3. Of those initially elected to the board as provided in this section, four from the townships shall be elected to a term of two years, and four from the townships and the at-large member shall be elected to a term of four years. Upon the expiration of these initial terms, all members shall thereafter be elected to terms of four years) that were and are currently on the books stating who should be overseeing the 911 system. The commissioners have been presented with this statute on several occasions and state that it does not apply to us. I ask why, is it the population difference, if so they should have been following it prior to the 2000 census then.
My complaint with billing the entities is this, the entities get there funding from you and I, the customers of that entity, if we are to allow the county commissioners to do as they wish, then you and I will be charged up to four times for one single call. If you were to call 911 for a medical call then that call alone could generate a response from four different agencies that are dispatched by the Scott County 911 center, the local fire/rescue service, the local police department (if applicable), the appropriate ambulance service and possibly the Scott County Sheriff's department. This may seem to the extreme to some people but there are numerous emergencies (victim of an assault) where this is a reality and under those circumstances I would want everyone there for my family as I am sure you would.
Here is another quote that needs to be analyzed, "Commissioner Jamie Burger said the total expenses for the county's communications center was $380,569 for 2006 so far" true, I'm sure, but what is not said is the fact that within the past year the Scott County 911 Center was merged with the Scott County Sheriff's Department Dispatchers and that a portion of these monies are coming from the Sheriff's department to pay for dispatching, something that would have to be done irregardless. So, yes the 911 budget is larger this year, but, that is because you have merged two dispatch units into one. Merging these two dispatch centers is something that should have been done from day one since all of the employees were county employees and dispatchers.
If the county commissioners are allowed to charge the entities (police, fire and ems) then we the customers should be running it in accordance with Missouri State Statutes. We also need to realize that this will have a negative impact on the smaller entities such as a volunteer fire department. Did you know that there a some fire departments that operate on less than $5,000.00 per year. By charging these departments you will be forcing them to decide between supplying someone you know (friend, brother, sister, mother or father) with safe and proper protective gear so they can return home to see you or their children, or do they pay the county to follow through on a promise that has never been fulfilled from day one.
Why should the emergency services have to pay for being dispatched to assist you or me? What do the county commissioners think they are going to do with a department that does not pay, not dispatch them to "our" emergency? If they do not dispatch a department then who would be liable, I know who I would be naming in a law suit.
This dilemma is often compared to the saying, which came first the chicken or the egg, which do you need more the ability to call for help or the help that you are calling for, or here is another, do you rob Peter to pay Paul? My suggestion is we force the commissioners to follow the state statutes on forming an elected board, the county (you and I) continue to subsidize the 911 center with general revenue until the elected board has approached the customers with possible solutions and the customers have decided the appropriate path to follow.
Oran , MO