At an estimated cost between $9 million and $18 million, the proposed merging of 911 dispatch services in Madison County should be closely scrutinized by local officials.
The expense, which will upgrade a radio system accessible to all agencies, could involve a bond issue to cover the county’s expense or a city referendum if the cost is above $12 million. Officials are working to keep the cost to that limit.
But most of this discussion centers on participation by the city of Anderson.
A resolution seeking approval by Anderson could face the City Council on Thursday. However, Councilman David Eicks has asked the administration of Mayor Kevin Smith to withdraw the resolution for a month. Eicks wants more answers concerning the wages and health insurance for city employees. He also would like to see more than three city representatives on a nine-member board that sets dispatch center policy.
Eicks is also asking for a continuance because he is unable to attend Thursday’s meeting.
Asking questions about such a large project is entirely proper. Taxpayers would expect no less.
However, there is also an additional factor in the cost consideration. If the resolution is adopted soon, the city’s share of the costs would be about $2.5 million. If Anderson joins later, the price bumps up to about $4 million.
Eicks’ questions are valid and must be answered by public safety officials. But an already expensive proposal shouldn’t cost close to an additional $1.5 million because of one council member’s questions.
On Thursday, taxpayers should expect all of Eicks’ questions — and any by other council members — to be satisfactorily answered. But taxpayers should also expect the City Council to be cost efficient in providing a needed public safety service.
To read a recent Herald Bulletin news article about efforts to combine dispatch services, visit heraldbulletin.com and search for "dispatch center."