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Chiefs make arguments against combining 911

Richmond Police Chief Terri McWilliams and Fire Chief Lonnie Quick want a central dispatch. Just not the way it’s currently set up.
The Richmond Finance Committee met last night to discuss a proposal from Ray County 911 Dispatch (RCD) to provide 911 and dispatch service for the city.
On the table is a $182,000 proposal from RCD.
McWilliams said that her department would still require an administrative person to man the police station window 24 hours a day. She said her budget would require about $144,000 for personnel that would include three full time workers and 4,000 hours of part time workers.
Police Communications Director Tim Ray said a switch over to RCD would also increase report filing times significantly, because the city’s report information is not compatible with the RCD.
“Dispatch needs to be combined,” McWilliams said. “It absolutely needs to be combined; but it needs to be done in a manner that is beneficial financially and services wise for the county and the city. It needs to be a separate entity alltogether and it needs to be managed separately. I don’t want any part of it.”
McWilliams suggested that the city pay off its 911 obligations over the next two years while every interested party in the county is brought to the table. She said once everyone decided what he or she wants from dispatch, the issue can be taken to the voters.
Councilman Mike Wright said that RCD is a separate entity; however, Ray said they are not and that they are under the umbrella of the county.
Quick said many years ago voters turned down a county-wide central dispatch. He said they only voted for 911.
“That’s not even supposed to be a dispatching [board],” Quick said. “It was a board to begin with, to only oversee 911 funds for equipment. Dispatch and 911 are two totally separate things.”
Councilman Bob Bond said he and Councilman Tom Williams went back to the 911 boards to discuss what the costs would be. He said they were told that employees alone would cost an additional $109,000 a year if the city joined. In addition the RCD’s Mid America Regional Council (MARC) dues would increase. MARC supplies and maintains all of RCD’s 911 equipment. RCD pays MARC about $70,000 a year.
Ray said the city approached MARC about 911 service after the city and county split, and were told it would cost more than $280,000 to hook on. He said the city’s current provider hooked the city up for $93,000.
“That’s not an uncommon practice with MARC,” Ray said. “You over pay on a lot frequently.”
Ray added that he doubts RCD gets $70,000 in grant money each year.
“I don’t understand what we’re missing out on,” Quick stated.
Councilwoman Terrie Stanley said that RCD came up with the proposal based on figures provided by the city. She said not all of the numbers were presented to RCD. Ray said that he didn’t think the city’s budget numbers, along with some other figures, mattered to RCD.
“They didn’t have these figures because they were not presented to them,” Stanley said.
“It didn’t matter to them because they didn’t get them,” she said.
McWilliams responded by saying, “We’ve never got a phone call. We’ve never got a visit. We’ve never been asked a question by a councilperson, the 911 board or anyone else.
“I feel like I’m under attack from you,” she added. “I feel like you’re yelling at us. I feel like you’re accusing us of doing something under [false pretenses].”
Bond and Williams said that RCD expressed some concern about the numbers the city did provide. The city’s calls for service have decreased by more than 1,400 calls a year from 2006 to 2008, while calls for the Ray County Sheriff’s Department has increased.
“You obviously don’t trust me and you obviously don’t trust the numbers I’m giving you,” McWilliams said.
City Administrator Rick Childers said he didn’t recall anyone from RCD asking for certain figures either. He said even if the city brought its expenses down to $100,000 and the RCD brought their fee down to $100,000, the city would still be spending $40,000 more than what they currently are.
The city will conduct a public hearing next Tuesday, June 30.

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