Council questions E-911 merger

Published 10:36 am Thursday, December 22, 2011

MURFREESBORO — Murfreesboro leaders seem on the same page about merging Hertford County’s E-911 dispatch services, but questions about the topic are abundant.

Last Tuesday the Murfreesboro Town Council was presented with a draft copy of the county’s plans to merge dispatch from Murfreesboro and Ahoskie police departments along with the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office.

In a motion the council appointed Councilwoman Sarah Wallace, who serves as Police Commissioner, to attend the meetings regarding the merger.

Town Administrator Brandon Holland presented the council with an inter local agreement from county officials concerning consolidated E-911 services.

“This is not final,” he said about the document. “The county has not approved it as a final, it has just been introduced and this is what I’m doing to you today.”

Holland said there are federal and state incentives available to those wishing to consolidate to their E-911 services. Beginning in July 2012 there will be set requirements on certification and staffing for emergency communications.

“It’s a better idea to join your organizations now than to have the state coming in two or three years later and tell you what you need to do,” he said. “Right now the funds are available, again, this (draft) is just an introduction and everything is negotiable.”

Holland did note one line of interest in the draft to council members regarding the town’s contribution, which was left blank.

“If we decide to participate in this we can decide what we want to put into the system for the next three years,” he said.

Holland referred to the proposal pitched by Hertford County Manager Loria Williams to have the contributions based on population and Murfreesboro would the smallest community out of the three to be agreeing to the inter local agreement.

He added the administrators and managers will be meeting about the E-911 consolidation in order to give the towns and county hard numbers and more of a grasp of what they will be entering in to.

Councilman Hal Thomas noted the draft stated current employees are encouraged to apply for open positions.

“Is there any way we can change that so that in the initial hire current employees in these positions be given priority,” he asked.

Police Chief Darrell Rowe said emergency officials have spoken about that issue. He said each of the E-911 centers in the county have four full-time dispatchers.

“In order for Hertford County to operate with a central 911, we need at least three dispatchers on duty at a time,” he said. “Our idea is to use the exact same 12 full time dispatchers we’ve got right now.”

Rowe said E-911 monies do not pay for salaries and the three entities would have to continue to pay for their full-time dispatchers. Rowe said, from the meeting discussion, the most simplistic way to do this would have the dispatchers continue to be employees of the town, but be assigned to the central dispatch.

He added a new building and equipment would be paid for with E-911 money, but the town would still pay for the four employees they have.

Rowe said from a public point of view he was worried how Murfreesboro residents would react to the Police Department not being open to the public 24 hours a day.

“Everyone in Murfreesboro has always known 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you can come to this building and someone will be here,” he said. “If we go to centralized dispatch, at five o’clock in the afternoon this building will be locked; Saturday and Sunday this building will be locked.”

Rowe said there would be a communication device either outside the building or inside the lobby where if someone does come with an emergency they can call central dispatch.

“I think that will be something difficult for the citizens to get used to because we constantly, all day and night, are having people come in to the Police Department to talk,” he said.

Rowe said the change would not be an easy transition.

Holland noted there was a county official who would not support the consolidation if the police departments were not open to the public 24 hours.

Mayor John Hinton said there would need to be an appointment of a council member on the consolidated E-911 governing board. He suggested Wallace for the task in the future.

Town Attorney Buddy Jones recommended council make the appointment now so Wallace could attend meetings regarding the consolidation.

The council voted unanimously to appoint Wallace.

Ahoskie approved the draft agreement last Tuesday morning at their meeting.