Local municipalities are seeking the county’s help. Monday night, Jacksboro Mayor Jack Cannon and Caryville Mayor Chris Stanley asked the Campbell County Commission to pay for dispatch fees.
“This past year we got a letter telling us it was going to cost us $57,000 for a 911 dispatcher,” Cannon said.
This amount has since been reduced to $44,000, Cannon said.
“We feel, that it being a county service, the county should pick up the tab,” Cannon said.
The $44,000 would be 3.5 percent of Jacksboro’s budget, Cannon said.
“We can’t absorb it,” Stanley said. “It’s just not gonna happen with us. It’s just too much for us.”
The $44,000 makes up about 7 percent of Caryville’s budget, Stanley said.
Campbell County 911 was established in 1992 to provide direct dispatch services to the county.
The funding for 911 comes from charges on phone lines. Residents are charged $1.50 for landlines, and business owners are charged $3 for landlines. Campbell County 911 receives 100 percent of the revenue generated from those fees. However, the rise of cell phone usage has caused this revenue source to fall.
“Everything’s going to cellular phones now,” Cannon said.
Tennessee charges $1 on everyone’s cell phone bill for 911, Campbell County 911 Director Charlie Hutson said. Campbell County 911 receives only 25 percent of the money generated from this tax.
This funding pays for new equipment, technology updates, Global Information Systems, and fees for service contracts on equipment, not dispatchers’ salaries. And since its inception, these expenses have increased, Hutson said.
In addition to funding difficulties, Campbell County 911 also has experienced higher call volumes.
There were around 80,000 calls in 2011 and over 105,000 calls last year, Hutson said.
This is because retirees require more assistance, Hutson said.
There are currently eight full-time dispatchers and three part-time dispatchers, Hutson said.
“It’s a busy job,” Hutson said.
The Campbell County 911 Board needs more money to pay salaries of current employees and wants to hire more dispatchers to handle increasing call volumes, Hutson said.
Who paid who?
The Campbell County 911 board approached the municipalities for help with dispatch fees because the county has made contributions in the past, Hutson said. Campbell County originally provided for five dispatchers, Jellico Community Hospital paid for one, LaFollette Ambulance services provided for one and the Campbell County Sheriff’s Department paid for one. However, Caryville, Jacksboro and Jellico don’t currently contribute money to pay for dispatchers.
Campbell County currently pays $198,000 to pay for dispatchers.
Commissioner Rusty Orick attempted to negotiate the price down.
“The meat and the taters is $150,000,” Orick said. “What can you get by with?”
Hutson said $88,000.
“Is there any way you (Hutson) could lower the price for the cities that the cities could help out a little?” Orick asked. “$44,000 I know is out of the question. Can you (Caryville and Jacksboro) help out some?”
Caryville can pay for some of the cost, but not all of it, Stanley said.
“If y’all don’t pay this, it would be like the city’s paying twice, because we do pay property tax,” Cannon said.
Commissioner Sue Nance asked how the city of LaFollette is able to handle its own dispatch.
LaFollette uses 911 money to pay 911 fees, and hires dispatchers as employees, paying them separately, Hutson said.
Since Campbell County 911 was established, Jellico has maintained it’s own dispatchers for the fire and police departments, Hutson said. Campbell County 911 operates as a relay center for Jellico.
“I’ve talked to Les (Mayor of Jellico),” Stanley said. “They have their own system, they’re going to try to (do it themselves).”
In order to provide direct dispatch, a municipality would have to maintain the same kind of equipment Campbell County 911 has, Hutson said.
“You’re looking at a price tag of $650,000 to $750,000,” Hutson said.
This would be a start up price. The equipment would have to be regularly updated, Hutson said. Dispatchers would also have to meet the same requirements Campbell County 911 dispatchers meet.
Orick asked what would happen if neither the county nor the municipalities paid the cost for the dispatchers.
If Campbell County 911 reaches a point where it can’t provide direct dispatch, it might become a relay center.
Wilson County 911 operates as a dispatch center, Hutson said. Calls are routed to dispatchers in each municipality who dispatch the appropriate agencies.
“It would be like before you had central 911,” Hutson said. “You had all these dispatchers spread out in other places.”
Central dispatching places dispatchers for all agencies under one roof. They are able to answer calls together.
“It makes a difference on your response time,” Hutson said.