Campbell County 911 board to ask for money from municipalities

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Rising costs and increasing amounts of calls have caused the Campbell County 911 Board to look to the municipalities they serve for help paying expenses.

At a meeting Friday, the Campbell County 911 Board decided to continue operating as a direct dispatch service. It was also decided that in order to continue operating in this capacity, the board must seek financial help from municipalities within Campbell County.

“The costs just continue to go up,” Campbell County 911 Director Charlie Hutson said.

Campbell County 911 receives its budget from the state, which comes from a tax on cell phones. This budget isn’t meant to pay for dispatchers, but is intended to pay for equipment and administrative costs, Hutson said.

“Dispatch has always been a local government thing,” Hutson said.

Each municipality used to employ its own dispatchers. Campbell County centralized dispatching in 1997, with Campbell County 911. Since then, the local municipalities within the county haven’t paid for dispatch, but the county has. The county set it up in the beginning to pay for five full-time dispatchers, Hutson said. At that time, the ambulance service was a LaFollette service. This LaFollette Ambulance Service paid for its dispatcher. Jellico paid for a dispatcher, and the sheriff’s department loaned a dispatcher to the 911 board. These three agencies no longer pay for these dispatchers, but there are still eight, full-time dispatchers at Campbell County 911. Therefore, the 911 board has had to absorb the cost of these three dispatchers. Campbell County 911 needs these dispatchers to handle the increasing call volume. But no extra funding has come in to pay them. The call volume will continue to rise, Hutson said. It will no longer be feasible to offer direct dispatch to the county if no additional money is provided to pay the dispatchers the service requires, he said.

Campbell County 911 hasn’t received extra funding to cover the rising prices for benefits packages. Instead, whenever a salary increases, the county increases the percentage of funding it gives to match the salary increase.

The solution Hutson proposed to the 911 board Friday was to ask the municipalities to help pay for the dispatchers.

Campbell County 911 would ask Caryville and Jacksboro to pay about $56,000 each per year. Campbell County 911 handles all their dispatch, Hutson said. The town of Jellico would be asked to pay about $22,000 the Emergency Medical Services in Jellico would be asked to pay about $33,000, because Campbell County 911 doesn’t handle all the dispatching for Jellico.

“You’ve got to consider they’ve been getting this service for 15 years,” Hutson said. “They’ve never contributed a dime (to it).”

LaFollette handles their own dispatching, and won’t be asked to contribute.

If the municipalities don’t want to pay, they would have the option of starting their own relay center, but would need their own equipment. The initial cost for this would be about $441,000, Hutson said.

“A $55,000 recurring cost is a lot better than a half a million dollar start up cost,” Campbell County Ambulance Services Director Danny Sheckles said.

The Campbell County 911 board will meet with Campbell County Mayor William Baird, Jellico Mayor Les Stiers, Caryville Mayor Robert Stooksbury and Jacksboro Mayor Jack Cannon on May 17 at 1 p.m. to discuss the issue.