Archived Story

Lawless responds to Ironton chief on 911

Published 9:39am Friday, April 20, 2012

 

In the verbal battleground that has surrounded the merger of the emergency dispatchers, Sheriff Jeff Lawless fired the latest salvo.

At Thursday’s county commission meeting Lawless refuted statements made by Ironton Police Chief Jim Carey that he has gotten little cooperation from the sheriff’s office and other county agencies to help with city dispatching.

“I have never said that we will not dispatch for the Ironton Police Department,” Lawless told the commission reading from a prepared statement. “The sheriff could dispatch for the police department immediately if asked.”

Recently Ironton City Council said the city police dispatchers would stop handling 911 calls as a way to reduce a budget deficit. City officials had met with the county commission and Lawless about the possibility of the sheriff’s office handling city emergency calls.

The sheriff said that he would have to hire two full-time employees and a part-time worker to pick up the city calls at a cost of $125,000 to Ironton.

“Several times in the last few months we have been more than cooperative in trying to help them resolve their problems,” Lawless said.

Last month the county commission put the 911 dispatching service under the authority of the sheriff’s office consolidating that with his operation. That was done in a 2 to 1 vote by commission with Commission President Les Boggs voting against.

Boggs said he had not been included in a meeting leading up to the vote and was critical of the way the vote was taken.

Right now the sheriff is relocating that consolidated operation to a single venue and will hire additional personnel.

“For 11 years county leaders have expressed the need to have 911 be a countywide agency, but no one made a move,” the sheriff said. “Two commissioners decided to move 911 forward … and make 911 what it should be to help all citizens. … But there are a few people who are hoping it will be a failure.”

Originally Ironton had set June 30 as the date for ceasing its dispatching operation. However on Monday all dispatchers were notified that they would be laid off on May 18, a move Lawless said he was not informed about that decision.

Ironton is also in negotiations with Greenup County to handle the city’s dispatching for a possible cost of $105,000.

“Why not spend it right here,” Lawless asked. “The city would like this to be done for free but we will have to come with the funds.”

Carey has said publicly that he believes the sheriff’s office should not charge the city for dispatching.

All three commissioners gave Lawless their support in his efforts to consolidate emergency dispatching.

“We have put public safety as a top priority,” Commissioner Bill Pratt said. “I am very disappointed. But we will recover. We will do this with their help or without.”

In other business the commission

• Requested a prosecutor’s opinion on the legality of extending hangar leases at the county airpark for 30 years;

• Approved promotion of Robyn McClaskey and Cheryl Waller at the Department of Job and Family Services;

• Accepted surplus computer equipment from Ohio State University Extension.

• Announced that next Thursday’s meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the Burlington Commons Park.

 

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  • repub4life

    Wow! It is a shame that this chief of police can make bill garland look smart, and this sheriff will make people actually miss tim sexton. i hope tim runs in 2016!

    (Report comment)

  • ThisisHome

    There are many issues to be resolved in order to make this work. Such as taking bond money after court hours and operating jail doors at the SO. I believe that is why this has only been talked about fot the past 10 years(also past commissioners wanted authority over 911 jobs). Due to the fact that we now have commissioners and a Sheriff that want to see this county move forward, we have to trust that they already have ideas in place to make this a success.

    It will be more efficient all the way around once everything gets worked out. Let’s have faith and show support to those we have elected or appointed to make these decisions.

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  • Angie

    County and City government have always held the purse strings in this town.

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  • Angie

    As I am reading this I began to do a little math. The city was offered a bid for dispatching (out of state) @ $105,000 FOR 1 YEAR
    Divide that by 3 = $35,000 per year
    Divide that by 52 = $673 per week
    Divide that by 40 = $16.82 per hour
    PAID TO EMPLOYEES OUT OF STATE

    Sheriff said he could do it for $125,000
    2 full time employees $50,000 per year
    Divide that by 52 = $961.00 per week
    Divide that by 40 = $23.27 per hour

    1 part timer $25,000 per year
    Divide that by 52 = $480 per week
    Divide that by 20 = $24 per hour or $12 for 40 hour week.

    OR the Sheriff could hire 3 full time employees
    $125,000 divided by 3 = $41,666 per year
    Divided by 52 = $801 per week
    Divided by 40 = $20 per hour

    First, shame on the City for considering to pay wages to people out of state. KEEP THE MONEY HERE!! HIRE 3 DISPATCHERS. LAST TIME I CHECKED $35,000 A YEAR FOR IRONTON IS A GREAT AMOUNT OF MONEY!!

    Second, Sheriff, If you hire dispatchers @ $50 grand a year SIGN ME UP!!!

    (Report comment)

    • bornandraised ironton

      AHamilton – I am not arguing with your math but you are not seeing the full picture. I have been involved off and on in law enforcement since the 80′s and have a pretty good idea of how it works.

      Salary is only part of the picture. There is an hourly wage to be paid. That seems to run from $10 to $13 per hour over the 3 dispatches right now.

      The next difference to be considered is in the benefits also included with the pay.

      Insurance easily runs in excess of $1000 per employee with a family. Different coverages have different premium amounts obviously. Employees from each different union pay a different percentage based on their union agreement. The employer pays the balance.

      Next, retirement is paid by the employee and/or the employer. Again that varies for each department and union contract. The amount paid by the employer can run from 5 to 25 percent of the salary. Employees pay different amounts again based on their union contract.

      Each of these contracts have been negotiated over time. Employees have frequently taken a lower hourly amount in return for a smaller amount they have to personally pay for insurance and retirement.

      I guess my point is this – no employee involved is making $16 to $24 per hour in cash. It is far less as you can see. But the total cost of having an employee is based om the total cost to the employer. I just didn’t want you to think a dispatcher was a high paying job in this area.

      The chief did not say he wanted to use Greenup but merely pointed out they expressed their capabilty and quoted him a price. That price was less than the quotes previously discussed. You may recall Councilman Bollinger (also an employee of the Sheriff) made an original offer of $80,000. Later the sheriff himself quoted varying amounts up to $150,000. Carey was merely pointing out options available to the city and the cost. He is spending his budget conservatively as he has in the past. You would not want him to do anything less with spending city money. He should try and get the most for his money. I think most people including Carey would agree that we should keep the work here in town if at all possible but sometimes competitive bidding gets you a better price doesn’t it? It proves the work could be done for a smaller amount if indeed the city would be forced to pay anything at all. That is another entire issue being discussed.

      Hope this clears this up some for you and others.

      (Report comment)

      • Angie

        bornandraised ironton – I appreciate the fact that you wanted to explain the offers, but, you have to agree that even hiring 2 dispatchers and paying a portion of the insurance & PERS is still better than sending jobs across the river. I know what a dispatcher gets paid because I have that job title myself. I also know that Jeff and Jim will do the best they can with what they have been offered. Communication is the key in this whole thing. The point of the whole thing is we don’t want our town to end up like Portsmouth or Huntington and its headed there fast. Laying off police officers from the city and complaining about response times from the county deputies in our news paper is only telling every criminal in the tri-state HERE WE ARE! Sell your pills, rob our houses and kidnap our children. Sorry Gentleman that’s the truth. I have been raised here too and I believe costs can be cut elsewhere in this city besides our very needed police and dispatchers.

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      • bornandraised ironton

        AHamilton – Taking your comments as truthful – that you are a dispatcher, then why would you lead people to believe the dispatching job appears to pay $16 to $24 an hour by your math examples when you should know that is misleading. It is hard for me to give your opinion a fair evaluation when you are attempting to distort the numbers.

        I will agree that we need to keep every job possible in this town.

        Lawless and Carey have been shoved into this mess by commissioners and city council through no fault of their own. Do you agree with me that the commissioners and council should be the ones negotiating the terms of this merger. After all, they are the ones controlling the purse strings. The only trouble with that is that neither the commissioners nor the council have any idea what all dispatchers do besides answer the phone and talk on the radio. They are clueless and need educated also.

        Someone is going to have to take over the additional duties from both the SO and IPD that cannot be done at 911. That is a major issue that has not been addressed because they are not informed.

        2 quick examples come to mind. Someone will have to stay outside the jail area at the SO to open and close secure doors back into the jail area from that side. Jailers cannot carry a master key back there with them. That means a person on the dispatch side 24 hours a day doesn’t it? Who is going to be able to take bond payments for Municipal Court 16 hours per day when the court is closed. 911 staff cannot have direct contact with the public. It has to be a secure facilty. There are other duties that will need to be addressed in order to make the merger work. It is not simply answering phones and talking.

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  • BillPratt

    Wow! This has really gotten out of hand. The facts of the matter are these. In anticipation of Ironton no longer funding their dispatch, I felt that in order to absorb that cost, our County communications services (911 and the Sheriff’s dispatch) would need to become more efficient. This would be more efficient financially and more efficient for the caller with an emergency. From the onset it has been expected on my part that we would not be paid for this service. Many of the reasons have been expressed in this forum and I believe are justifiable. The commisioners who are representing your County now should not be held accountable for the political debacle that was created 10+ years ago. We are merely taking bold steps to correct the problems we have today. In my opinion, the decision to be made was “who would be charged with the oversight of this consolidation?”. We having chosen our Sheriff to do this.

    One reason for moving quickly on this decision was so our Sheriff would have adequate time to organize prior to Ironton’s deadline of June 30th. This was the time for funding for their dispatching to run out. We were really taken aback when that was changed so abruptly to May 18th. That being said, we are not the “boss” of Ironton and I do not pretend to be aware of all of their issues.

    It is unfortunate that this process has been made more difficult by poor communication, but in the end Ironton will have dispatching for it’s police force. Sheriff Lawless is in the business of protecting the citizens of of Lawrence County and I can’t think of a better person to make this all work than Ironton’s home town boy. It is my hope that we can have support from all involved. Public safety is and should be a top priority of your local government and I for one am determined to see this through.

    Thank you for your time.

    Bill Pratt
    Lawrence County Commissioner

    (Report comment)

    • bornandraised ironton

      Bill – Everyone keeps saying the date has been abruptly moved to May 18. That is NOT accurate. The mayor is required by contract to give every union member notice that layoffs COULD occur. The city is negotiating with all 3 unions but meanwhile the budget that was passed is going to have to be revised. Several weeks have passed and still no agreement in place. The numbers in the budget are no longer correct. Therefore, the mayor could be forced to make layoffs to help balance the budget again but it is only a possibilty – not a certainty – that layoffs will occur on that date.

      (Report comment)

      • BillPratt

        Bornandraised,

        I very much appreciate that clarification. My apologies to the Mayor. That makes me feel a little better. I do have much sympathy for our county seat as well as the villages who struggle with their financial situations.

        At the county level, we are not immune to these problems and we foresee the next couple of years as very troublesome. Even with these difficult times, we must continue to be optimistic and work together.

        The county government will be here to help as long as we are able to help.

        (Report comment)

    • swimmingupstream

      Thanks Bill….I feel much better now knowing this is on the right track.

      Next issue for Ironton, at least, will be access to reports from the police station once its dispatching operation ends. The sheriff may have the same problem with his dispatching moving to the 911 center too.

      Wouldn’t it be nice if at some point in the future a facility could be developed that would house both the sheriff and IPD with all reports in the same building?

      That could free up space in the jail for expansion of cells without an expansion of the building???

      (Report comment)

      • bornandraised ironton

        swimming – Keep in mind that remodeling would involve construction and it would fall into meeting current requirements and guidelines. This has been discussed repeatedly over the years and as I understand it, the current jail is obsolete as far as standards go but has been grandfathered in all these years. It would have to brought up to current specs and that would be terribly expensive. For example, current jail regulations require a certain number of jailers for the number of inmates. The county could not afford the salaries of the increased jailers even if the state gave us a brand new jail.

        (Report comment)

    • bornandraised ironton

      Bill – I would suggest you visit each location – 911, IPD dispatch and SO dispatch and stay for at least an hour just to see what the job really does. It would definitely help you understand what you are dealing with.

      As a final comment, I do appreciate your taking on this task. Past commissioners have ignored it and 911 has been regarded by our residents as in ineffective telephone forwarding system to put it one way. It has never been used to the best of its capabilities and needs a fresh look. Hopefully you and the other 2 are the ones to finally make it happen.

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  • swimmingupstream

    “I can only imagine that when the county determined the tax percentage they would need to fund 911 they took into consideration that the City of Ironton funded their own police dispatch. With that being said, that tax percentage would have been higher if they were planning to dispacth for IPD also.”

    The county first put on a one percent tax to fund EMS; found it brought in a lot more money than estimated; found out they could get a additional half-percent with a vote of the taxpayers and put that on too. They grabbed every dime they could get their hands on. Now they are facing having to spend it the way it was orginally supposed to be and we’re now going to see all kinds of foot dragging.

    I just wonder what happens with Ironton police’s dispatchers are gone after May 18. What will 911 dispatchers be told to tell people from Ironton who call in complaints? When we call 2345 will we get a message “This number is no longer in service?”

    (Report comment)

    • swimmingupstream

      correction above: Should have said “without a vote of the taxpayers…”

      (Report comment)

  • Country

    People complain why should Ironton pay more for 911 than other county residents. But if those who live outside of Ironton call 911 the Ironton PD will not be responding.

    There was a comittee that looked at this before and it was not done. It will cost more money to add to the 911 dispatching than what it is now. Where will this money come from? The Sheriff is funded thur the County and Ironton PD is not.

    The Ironton City Council have known about their lack of money for years and is trying to force their way to get something without paying.

    They say the money would be for added staff. The need for training dispatchers to be able to handle all the duties succesfully. Will extra equipment be needed?

    Then what will the city and county do with the equipment that they will not be using for dispatching? If selling then that money should go to the 911 dispatching.

    Many of the complaints to why this has not been done before is the groups wanted to prevent job losses. Not to provide better service and saving money.

    Time for all to put the politics out and work providing better 911 for all. As well as looking to see if there is funding out there to pay for the added duties to 911.

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  • ThisisHome

    I can only imagine that when the county determined the tax percentage they would need to fund 911 they took into consideration that the City of Ironton funded their own police dispatch. With that being said, that tax percentage would have been higher if they were planning to dispacth for IPD also. One more thing, Ironton will still be saving money if they pay the county $125,000 yearly, due to not paying saleries and health care for IPD dispatchers. Wake up Ironton, services aren’t free if they were the Sheriff would take this on for free.

    (Report comment)

    • bornandraised ironton

      The original director of 911 was Don Mootz. He anticipated the cost and budget needs and offered services to sheriff and IPD for no charge. Only IFD chose to use 911 at that time. Why should Ironton residents pay any more for this service than county residents do? County residents don’t pay any extra for the service. We all pay into it equally now. Ironton just never took advantage of the service.

      (Report comment)

    • swimmingupstream

      It’s becoming apparent from some of the comments that many people do not believe Ironton is in Lawrence County. If that’s the case, and Ironton is not entitled to the services it’s paying for, would it not follow that the county should give us the sales tax money collected by and from residents of Ironton so that we can continue to dispatch our own police calls? Noone has suggested they want to give up Ironton’s money, they just don’t want Ironton to get the benefit from it unless it pays for it twice. Maybe we should succeed from Lawrence County and annex ourselves into Greenup County. They seem to love us more than Lawrence County.

      (Report comment)

  • Ozzy

    And now we know the rest of the story. Sounds like Chief Carey wasn’t very forthcoming.

    The Sheriff is right, someone has to pay for the extra work to be done. The Sheriff has to worry about all of the County and it sounds like he is willing to do so but he will have to be provided the means.

    The City of Ironton needs to pay their fare share.

    (Report comment)

    • bornandraised ironton

      Ozzy – where specifically exactly was Carey wrong? Carey is trying to save the city money. We are already paying for 911 service 4 ways. Ironton residents just have not been getting their money’s worth all these years. That was due to past chiefs and even past sheriffs. They chose to keep their own already trained staff.

      (Report comment)

      • Ozzy

        He was wrong to say that the County would not cooperate with the city. I checked with the Commissioners Office and was told that the County officials sat down with the city on numerous occasions.

        The County was told that they had until June 30th to work out a plan then all of the sudden it is May 18th. He is wrong to send $105,000 to Kentucky when that money may be able to be used to re-employ one of the workers he is laying off. I could continue but I hope you get the picture.

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  • swimmingupstream

    1. The county commissioners launched the 911 system.
    2. Because of politics and the fact money wasn’t a huge issue everyone circled the wagons around their own fifedoms and protected their people. The more people you have under your control the more power you have.
    3. So we ended up with a 911 system with a set of dispatchers who job it was to dispatch dispatchers at the other agencies who then dispatched the emergency vehicles (all of which tremendously delays response times).
    4. So from the get go we’ve had a 911 system that sucks (and I don’t mean to disparage anyone who has ever worked there, the fault lies with the county commissioners and other politicians who didn’t want to see the big picture). This left us with duplicate dispatching in Ironton, at the sheriff’s office, at the state patrol, and (until recently) EMS. Only the county and city fire departments were dispatched by 911. Five sets of dispatchers instead of one. Exactly the kind of efficiency we’ve come to expect from our government.
    5. Now we fast forward to today. The city is broke, the county is tight but seems to have things reasonably under control (they have enough money laying around to possibly bankroll a motel). And two of the 3 commissiners have apparently seen the wisdom of doing what should have been done 20 years ago and bring all dispatching under one roof and toward that end named the sheriff to supervise the combo.
    6. Here’s where the trouble begins. Because the city has paid its own dispatchers since the beginning of time the sheriff thinks they should continue to do so to the tune of $125,000 a year. The police chief thinks it should cost nothing. I have no idea what the commissioners think, or the mayor or the city council.
    7. What the sheriff and county commissioners chose to ignor is the fact that citizens of Ironton pay the same sales tax that everyone in the county pays and that sales tax money is to be dedicated to paying for 911, EMS, the sheriff and fire departments and emergency management (among other things). The sheriff does not seem to understand that the taxpayers of Ironton are already paying for 911, etc. and should not have to pay for it again. It is up to the commissioenrs to re-jiggle the funding to make it work.
    8. I don’t blame Chief Carey to checking out Greenup County’s capabilities. If we have to pay twice I think I’d rather see the money go to Greenup than to the county. At the same time, city council should initiate a lawsuit against the county to force them to turn over sales tax money collected in the city limits since it is to pay for services the county refuses to provide.
    9. This situation is so ridiculous that I don’t know what to think or do. But I would suggest we get the police chief, sheriff, mayor, county commissioners, and the lawyers together, put them in a room, lock the door and not let them come out until they have worked this out.
    10. JUST GET IT DONE!

    (Report comment)

  • Digi

    Ok, now let me see if I have this straight. The city got rid of dispatchers because of no money to pay them, and the county is now the one that is running the 911 department right? And because the county won’t dispatch for the city for free the city suddenly came up with $105,000 that they can give to KY for dispatching services after refusing to pay a dime to the county that they sit in for those same services?

    This is not a game folks! Wake the crap up city and use the county’s services and get off your high horses! Someone’s life could depend on that 911 call and do you really want it to be going to KY? The pettiness in this town is really getting bad!

    (Report comment)

    • bornandraised ironton

      Digi You are not correct. Greenup saw where Ironton City Council was intending to do away with dispatchers and approached the chief to bid on the services. They already have IPD frequencies programmed in and have a state of the art system. Their bid was $105,000 per year for a 2 year contract. Sheriff Lawless stated he would need $150,000 to do the same job.

      Council, not the chief, will ultimately decide if they pay anybody. Ironton residents are already paying into the county via cell phone surcharges, land line surcharges, property taxes and the 1/2 percent sales tax. That money is going to the county to fund 911 services now. Why should city residents pay any additional fees?

      Finally, 911 has been dispatching for IFD for many years now. Is there a fee involved for that service? Doubt it.

      Now you know the facts.

      (Report comment)

      • swimmingupstream

        The county collects a 1.5 percent (one and one-half) sales tax.

        (Report comment)

      • bornandraised ironton

        swimming – you are correct. Ohio sales tax is 5.5%.

        I remember years ago we had a tax levy that was dedicated for EMS only. Then commissioners added the additional sales tax (maybe only the .5 percent – not sure) and it was to replace the property tax levy. That money was to supplement EMS but since then the commissioners have raided it to use for sheriff, coroner, fire departments and other agencies. That additional money has become their slush fund instead of being dedicated for EMS as it was in the past. The fire departments helped get it passed but now only get a very small portion of the money. They got hoodwinked. I am not a firemen either.

        (Report comment)

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