Three-way split

Published 10:26 am Friday, April 6, 2012

WINTON – Since the idea emerged late last year of consolidating the three E-911 emergency dispatch points in Hertford County into a single entity, that discussion did not include an operational budget.

Now it does.

At their meeting here Monday morning, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners were briefed on what they can expect in non-reimbursable costs once the merger takes place.

During a workshop to discuss short-term and long-range budget numbers, County Manager Loria Williams informed the commissioners of the projected costs of operating a consolidated E-911 Center.

Even though that new entity may not begin operations until the 2015-16 fiscal year, Williams wanted the board to be aware of the added costs the county will bear with the consolidation.

She estimated the total non-reimbursable costs at $489,527 annually. That money will pay for 12 full-time dispatchers, to include their benefits, plus operational costs (electric, gas, maintenance, etc.). As far as equipping the center, the county can tap into its share (as well as Ahoskie’s and Murfreesboro’s share) of the state’s E-911 fund. That fund is built through a surcharge assessed to each land line telephone and mobile phone and then distributed to each emergency dispatch point in the state.

Once the new consolidated dispatch point opens in Hertford County, the salaries/benefits paid to the 12 full-time dispatchers will be covered by the county. Ahoskie and Murfreesboro will each contribute to the salaries and operational costs.

Based on population, Williams devised a proportional cost for each governmental entity. The county’s proportional share (based on having 63 percent of the total population, to include all municipalities other than Ahoskie and Murfreesboro) is $285,241 plus $36,763 it currently budgets for operational costs for the dispatch center now located in the Sheriff’s Office in Winton.

Adding the current salaries/benefits for its four dispatchers with the operational costs, Williams said she annually budgets $207,776 in non-reimbursable costs for the county’s E-911 dispatch operations.

“I knew going in that the E-911 merger with Ahoskie and Murfreesboro wasn’t going to be a cost saver for the county; it would cost us more,” Williams said. “However, this service is for the citizens, for public safety. The way it’s set up right now, those living and paying taxes in Ahoskie and Murfreesboro actually pay twice for emergency dispatch, once through town tax and again through county tax. Consolidating everything under one roof will be beneficial for all citizens.”

On the flip side of the coin, Ahoskie and Murfreesboro will pay less for the merged operations than currently budgeted for their individual E-911 dispatch.

Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond said his budget includes $150,988 in salaries for the staff of five dispatchers. The total budget for Ahoskie’s dispatch point, to include equipment and other costs, is $234,000.

Under Williams’ proposal based on proportion of population, Ahoskie’s 26 percent share of that total would mean the town would pay the county $127,277 for their portion of the E-911 consolidation.

Murfreesboro Police Chief Darrell Rowe said his department’s annual operational budget includes $115,000 in salaries for four E-911 dispatchers. He stated there were additional costs to operate that dispatch point, with those monies coming from the state E-911 fund.

With Murfreesboro accounting for 11 percent of the county’s population base, Williams said the town’s proportional share of operating a consolidated E-911 Center would be $53,848 annually.

While officials from the county, Ahoskie and Murfreesboro are currently engaged in seeking millions in state grants to build a stand-alone E-911 Center, Williams said it was hard to nail down the annual operational costs of that building.

“Without an existing building to base that cost on I really can’t say what those operational costs will be,” she stressed. “Right now we’re looking at perhaps building a 10,000 square foot facility. I’m basing the operational upkeep of that size building at $3.50 per square foot for an annual cost of $35,000. However, I’m still keeping the $36,793 we now budget for operational costs for our current dispatch room over in the Sheriff’s Office until we can get a handle on exactly what that cost will be once we open our new E-911 Center.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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