Christian County offers to help LawCo 911

Friday, November 1, 2019

Cost share of center design, surplus equipment boosts local effort

While weeks away from receiving the first sales tax payment for 911 operations, the Lawrence County Emergency Services Board in October made significant strides toward beginning its own service.

Board members accepted an offer from the Christian County Emergency Services Board to consider cost sharing on the design for a 911 operations center. The Christian County board is in the beginning stages of planning a new center, and proposed cost sharing on certain parts of the process.

Christian County also offered two Motorola radio base stations, a Motorola repeater and two Kenwood VHF FM repeaters. These were surplus units the Lawrence County board accepted with a letter of gratitude.

Chairman Mike Palmer brought in quotes from two companies that would loan money based on future sales tax revenues. Such a borrowing deal would enable the board to begin construction and the purchase of equipment while funding existing services. For 20-year deals at 3.5 percent interest, the board could borrow $8 million with an annual debt service payment of $567,000, $10 million by paying $708,000 a year, or $12 million at $850,000 a year.

The sales tax is expected to generate approximately $1.5 million annually. Currently, the only agreement the board has is with the City of Monett to continue services presently through the Monett dispatch center. That five-year contract costs $705,194 for the first year and will rise by 3 percent per year, for a cost of $793,702.06 in the fifth year.

The board has not yet reached terms with the Aurora/Marionville service for melding that operation into a countywide service. Palmer spoke to Aurora officials, who estimated the cost of answering approximately 26,300 calls a year would be around $400,000.

Aurora Police Chief Richard Witthuhn reported his city is reviewing the need to upgrade its backroom radio equipment. Costs for new equipment ran around $2 million. Officials considered how to to proceed with that upgrade and how it might interface or transfer to a consolidated Lawrence County center in the future.

Palmer presented the board with draft budgets, running from 2020 to 2024 for discussion. Board members agreed to place costs for an executive director into reserves until the time came when that position was filled and the board could no longer handle all the management.

In addition to the sales tax, the budget plan incorporated quarterly income of approximately $13,000 from prepaid wireless collections into the projected revenue. Those funds would immediately become part of the boardís income.

Having money to spend, the board approved buying QuickBooks software to document spending until the need arose to contract with a bookkeeper. Board members approved preparing a final contract with Ozark Electric for rental, insurance, electric charges and splitting the cost of keypad entry system costs for the Lawrence County radio equipment located at the former Missouri Rehabilitation Center. The City of Mt. Vernon is selling the MRC, necessitating moving the equipment.

With the beginning of collections for the 911 sales tax, the landline surcharge for county residents that originally funded 911 service will end. Secretary Bonnie Witt-Schulte said she has developed a letter to send to the telephone companies advising them of the switchover. The surcharge will cease at the end of the calendar year.

The board approved paying a $762 premium to Teeple Insurance for crimes policy coverage. Other bills for board training and 911 circuit and trunk line costs to AT&T and Windstream were authorized for payment pending review.

Plans were also made in preparation for the boardís first public election of representatives in April 2020. Board members decided to hold off developing a website until after the April election.

The boardís next meeting was slated for Nov. 18.

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