City-only 911 dispatch would cost $1.3 million

JOYANNA LOVE Banner Senior Staff Writer
Posted 2/10/15

The city of Cleveland would have to increase its allocations for 911 dispatch, and would not receive any state funding if it started its own 911 center, officials said.

Rex Barton, police …

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City-only 911 dispatch would cost $1.3 million

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The city of Cleveland would have to increase its allocations for 911 dispatch, and would not receive any state funding if it started its own 911 center, officials said.

Rex Barton, police management consultant for the Municipal Technical Advisory Service, presented information on the city establishing a separate dispatch center for emergency services, during a Cleveland City Council meeting Monday.

Until the consolidation in 1995, city and county emergency services had been dispatched separately. The city employed 11 dispatchers and the county employed 12. All of these dispatchers were retained in the new 911 Center.

“I think the calls for service eventually reached that staffing level and passed that staffing level. To be honest with you, I’m not sure how they (Bradley County 911 Center) are able to do good dispatching without adding more dispatchers; that’s a credit to the people that are over there,” Barton said.

Today, 14 would be needed if the services were split.

“That’s your bare-bones minimum,” Barton said. “It’s probably better if you had more.”

He estimated this would cost $1.3 million in salaries.

“That’s obviously a lot more than you are paying now,” Barton said.

The city of Cleveland splits the local cost of running the 911 Center with Bradley County and the city of Charleston. The county and city pay 49.5 percent each and the city of Charleston pays 1 percent.

This means the city of Cleveland contributes $450,000 on an annual basis.

“I think your startup cost of buying equipment … will run you between $350,000 and half a million dollars,” Barton said.

This does not include any renovation needed at the Cleveland Police Department to provide a place for the dispatchers and equipment. When the Cleveland Police Department’s building was constructed it included space for a 911 center.

State law no longer allows an Emergency Communications District to be created within another district.

“Since Bradley County has an Emergency Communications District, that’s what you have,” Barton said. “All of the 911 surcharge revenue, whether the land lines that go directly to them or the cellphone charges that the state sends to the county eventually would continue to go to (that) 911 Center.”

Barton said Brentwood was a comparable situation.

“Like Cleveland, they have seen some significant growth in the past few years,” Barton said.

However, Brentwood has fewer calls than what Cleveland would be handling, Barton said.

“Probably 75 percent of the calls that tie up dispatch are in the county (outside city limits); the majority of the money to operate it comes from the city,” said Vice Mayor George Poe. “We only have two departments to be dispatched out of it and the county probably has five.”

These city services are Cleveland police and fire departments.

He said dispatchers have to spend more time on a call that requires dispatch to the outskirts of the county than they do for a city incident.

“I feel city taxpayers are getting cheated with the time element,” Poe said. “I feel they are tied up and they cannot give good service to the people of Cleveland … The people of Cleveland are giving more and getting less.”

Barton said he hears similar issues across the state. He mentioned the city might want to consider readdressing the funding formula for the 911 Center to a division of cost the city feels is fairer than the current system. MTAS and the County Technical Assistance Service have been working together to suggest funding formulas that are based on population and call volume.

City Manager Janice Casteel said if the Council wanted to make any changes to the current contract, a decision would have to be made by March 1. The contract is set to automatically renew for four years on March 18.

Also during the meeting, the Council approved:

- A lease to GSP Business Alliance LLC for lease of Waterville Golf Course for 10 years. The company would pay $60,000 annually.

- A resolution requesting support of Legislation regarding “Local Determination of Broadband and Internet Services.” The proposed legislation would allow public utilities to offer broadband Internet outside of its utility area, if there was an agreement with the local government of that area.

- Rezoning 1.4 acres “located on Blackburn Road from R2 Low Density Single and Multi-Family Residential District to CH Commercial Highway District.”

- Establishing a $5 citation fee for e-ticketing.

- Authorizing “the Mayor to sign a license agreement with TDOT concerning the construction and maintenance of sidewalks and a storm drainage system along Norman Chapel Road,” and a lease agreement for replacing Parks and Recreation equipment

- “Declaring a wheel balancer from the Fleet Department as surplus property and to be sold on GovDeals.com.”

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