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.


  1. 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)

  2. 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.

    (Report comment)

  3. AHamilton

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

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  4. AHamilton

    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

    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!!!

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  5. 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

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  6. 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?”

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  7. 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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  8. 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.

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  9. 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.

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  10. 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.

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  11. 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)

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