The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Local News

June 20, 2014

Dispatch center get tentative OK from city

--- — ANDERSON — The city of Anderson took a step toward joining the combined dispatch centers for public safety agencies in Madison County.

The Anderson Board of Public Safety on Thursday voted tentative approval of an inter-local agreement that will bring Anderson into the countywide dispatch center.

The Safety Board will consider final adoption of the agreement on July 7, and the Anderson City Council is expected to consider the proposal on July 10.

Bruce Dunham, chairman of the Safety Board, said the agreement has been revised numerous times.

“The bottom line is the county will go ahead without us,” he said. “There will be growing pains, but we need to join now so we’re not left behind.”

Board member Frank Dick raised several questions concerning the agreement about a new radio system and licenses for radio frequencies.

“This will have to come about, there will be a savings,” he said. “Some of the wording is a little vague. We need more details on the transferring of licenses.”

Anderson Police Chief Larry Crenshaw urged the Safety Board to approve the agreement.

“I believe in fairness and worked hard on the pay matrix,” he said of city dispatchers becoming county employees. "We will save money and still be safe and efficient.”

Major Brian Bell, with the Madison County Sheriff's Department and chairman of the dispatch center committee, said the Safety Board action was a good sign.

"I'm really happy," he said Friday. "I anticipated the city was going to join. This clears another hurdle."

Bell said the combined dispatch center will take one to two years to become fully operational.

Crenshaw said the five-year agreement will save Anderson $1.5 million or $300,000 per year.

He said currently the city budgets $1.4 million for dispatch center services and the agreement has Anderson paying $1.1 million per year.

As proposed, the combined dispatch center would have a $3.2 million annual budget with $683,000 coming from the 911 fees; $1 million from Madison County; $250,000 from the fire departments; and $90,000 from both Elwood and Alexandria in each of the next 10 years.

Crenshaw said the city’s funding portion will be paid through the public safety county option income tax and not come from the general fund.

Crenshaw said the city of Anderson will have three representatives on the board that will oversee and set policies for the dispatch center, which will be a separate division of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department.

As part of the proposal, the county is considering the purchase of a new radio system that will allow communications between all public safety agencies. The estimated cost is $18.5 million and would be obtained by issuing a bond.

Assistant Chief Jim Rhodes said if the city joins the combined dispatch center there would be no cost to Anderson for the new radios.

“It would be a part of the inter-local agreement,” he said. “If Anderson doesn’t join, the county will save $2.5 million, if we join at a later time it will cost $4 million.

“City residents will be paying for the bond and not reaping the benefits,” Rhodes said.

Dunham said any problems can be addressed by the Dispatch Center board.

“We don’t want to be the island in the county when it comes to communications,” he said.

 

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 640-4863.

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