Archived Story

County splits 911 from LCSO

Published 9:54am Friday, January 11, 2013

Layoffs reduced but still looming

 

Potentially devastating layoffs to the county’s 911 dispatching center were averted Thursday as the Lawrence County Commissioners reversed course on last year’s move to merge that agency with the sheriff’s office. However one-third of the county’s road deputies are still set to be cut in a little more than a month.

This partial solution came after several days of uncertainty and debate

On Wednesday, Sheriff Jeff Lawless sent out layoff notices to five road deputies, a part-time corrections officer, a part-time sheriff’s dispatcher, 14 part-time 911 dispatchers and the director of 911. Lawless said the notices were forced after the Lawrence County Commissioners cut the sheriff’s budget approximately $400,000 for road deputies and 911 dispatching.

In mid-December the commissioners approved a budget that required a 23.5 percent cut in the salary line item of all officeholders.

“Twenty-two men and women who have served the county faithfully now will no longer have a job,” Lawless told the commissioners at their Thursday meeting. “I think we have weakened Lawrence County to a point where it could be a danger to the citizens. We have just hung a sign at the entrance of Lawrence County saying Criminals, welcome and open for business.’ ”

At the end of March the 911 system was placed under the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s office merging the payrolls of the sheriff’s five full-time dispatchers and the 911 dispatchers. Union rules require that all part-time employees be cut before full-time workers, which is why 911would have taken the biggest hit under the cuts since 14 of those dispatchers are part-time.

The last year that 911 was an independent agency was in 2011 when that department spent $544,349 on salaries and benefits for five full-time and 14 part-time dispatchers, office expenses and the salary of $45,156 for director Lonnie Best. Last year the sheriff’s office spent $239,825 for its five full-time dispatchers.

According to the county auditor’s office the 2013 budget included $588,394 to cover the salaries and benefits and expenses for the combined 911 system of 10 full-time and 14 part-time dispatchers. That is $195,780 less than what was spent to cover costs when the two systems were separate.

Lawless told the commissioners that the budget mandate has forced him to make cuts that other officeholders have not faced.

“I look at other offices and they are not suffering as we are,” the sheriff said.

Commissioner Bill Pratt said that every officeholder was faced with the same cuts.

“Each office is faced with the same situation as you are,” Pratt told the sheriff.

But to prevent layoffs of the dispatchers Pratt then made a motion to transfer $150,000 from the $258,000 in the half-percent sales tax that was not appropriated for the 2013 budget.

However before the commissioners voted on that motion, Commissioner Les Boggs proposed moving 911 dispatching from the sheriff’s office to free up an additional $75,000 on top of the $150,000 transfer. That $225,000 would be earmarked to fund the sheriff’s five dispatchers, removing them from the 911 budget.

While, according to the county auditor’s office only $585,394 was adopted in the budget for 911 dispatching, Boggs said there was $625,000 available for 911. That figure was approved for 911, but not adopted in the budget, the auditor’s office said.

“We can operate (911) with $550,000,” Boggs said after the meeting. “That will leave $75,000 to transfer to the sheriff’s office.”

Those transfers would enable both dispatching systems to retain all employees, the commission president said.

“It doesn’t change the dollars, but it keeps people working,” Boggs said.

When asked why not transfer the $150,000 to the sheriff’s 911 budget and allow Lawless to run the entire dispatching system, Boggs said, “I think you know how I feel about that. Even the sheriff himself said that (removing 911) is not a bad idea.”

Lawless told the commissioners that while he was given the authority to run the 911 system, he was never given the funds needed for that responsibility.

Throughout the 20-minute exchange between the sheriff and the commissioners, Lawless repeatedly asked for assurances that when money becomes available, it will go toward funding road deputies.

“I have to have a commitment that if money is available, it won’t go to remodel somebody’s office or for lighting at the airport,” Lawless said.

Commissioner Freddie Hayes said he doesn’t understand the conflicting appearances of the county’s financial situation.

“We are in a good situation one week and the next week we’re broke,” Hayes said. “I don’t think we really know what we are doing. But the first money we get will go to the sheriff’s office.”

After the meeting Boggs said the commission will try to find more funding to keep deputies on the road.

“Now we need to look for money to help the sheriff,” he said. “We can’t manufacture money. We anticipate there will be some for the sheriff.”

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Ozzy

    Well I’ll have to give this Sheriff credit for trying to combine 911. The previous two Sheriff’s did not try but Sheriff Lawless took a chance. Sure it did not work out for him or the County but his intentions were honorable. He was not funded properly to get all entities under one roof so it is not his fault it didn’t work out.

    I think we saw that Jeff Lawless is a good and decent man when he stood up, swollowed his pride, and did the right thing by giving 911 back to the Commissioners because he knew in doing so that at least 15 of the 22 people would get to keep their jobs and that the dispatch service would continue for the citizens. Sheriff Lawless, by law did not have to agree to this move. he could have said no. Don’t believe me, ask the Prosecutor.

    Thank you Sheriff Lawless, one of the jobs you saved was a friend of mine.

    I hope and pray that your Deputies get to keep their jobs as well. Lawrence County needs them.

    (Report comment)

    • big d

      Come on!! Give him credit for trying to combine it? The only reason Jeff wanted and yes I said wanted to take over 911 was he thought there was money to be taken!! Now no I dont blame him because he was robbing peter to pay paul!! Only problem the Peter he was robbing was going to affect the families of Lawrence Co!

      To the person who was confused about who to call since the split…… 911 and Law Co sherrif Dept was never in the same building so NOTHING changed from this you are getting the same service! Which may mean you get transferred but it has always been that way

      Now to squadjockey…. It is very obivious from reading your comment that you work for a private service and probably out of Ironton!! That doesnt matter!! Let me educate you just a little! When you made your comment that you should just charge more there is two problems with that!! 1) medicare/medicaid sets tht price you can bill up to and it is against the federal law to bill above that! but most important 2) Why kick this back to the hard working taxpayers of Lawrence Co!!

      Now do I have the answers NO!!!!
      Here is what I can tell you, There is money in the County to take care of everything if it is managed right!! It has not been that long ago that two of the three Commissioners donated if not all most of the pay back to the County to help out!!! Maybe this will happen again. Probably not but it is worth hoping!!!
      Here is one question I have for all…… Why are you putting EMS Sheriff and 911 against each other when they all Help us in some way or another!! Why not figure out a way to leave them alone and find or cut somewhere else?

      (Report comment)

      • Ozzy

        Bid d, It sounds like you work there so I will not pretend to know more than you if so, but… I do have a friend that works there and have been told me that Sheriff Lawless never interfered with the daily opperation or Lonnies management of 911 while he was over it. I think Jeff wanted to finally get it to work the way it should but I can see now that it never will.

        You are right about one thing the three emergency services work well with one another and should be left alone.

        911 employee are back to work so now lets pray that the Deputies also get to keep their jobs

        (Report comment)

      • swimmingupstream

        The response to my comments really says it all: NOTHING CHANGED.

        That is exactly the problem, Nothing Changed.

        We’ve being going nearly 20 years funding a 911 center that has never been what it was supposed to be and, assuming the actions of this past week stand, will never be what it was intended.

        Instead of an efficient way for citizens to get whatever type of emergency response they require, 911 is and has been from day one a big drain on the county budget.

        From Day 1, 911 should have dispatched all police agencies in Lawrence County, all fire departments and all emergency medical services. It should also be handing all emergency call-outs for such things as downed electric lines, natural gas leaks and waterline breaks.

        For nearly 20 years, until recently, Ironton resisted and fought tooth and nail against merging its police dispatch with 911. Finally, finances bit them in the behind and they shut their center down. But instead of 911 taking over, they again resisted and the sheriff took those duties on.

        In the meantime, 3 or 4 sheriffs resisted joining 911 and just wouldn’t let the dispatching be merged. That resistance continues and will as far into the future as the money will flow.

        When the commissioners decided to take back control of 911 they made one big mistake. They should have gutted the sheriff’s budget to pay his personal dispatchers beyond March 1 and forced the merger. But instead we’re going to keep on paying for dispatchers to dispatch dispatchers. The publics going to continue to have to explain their problem twice, sit on hold and explain everthing over and over while the crooks get away.

        The $239,000 it will cost to keep the sheriff’s dispatchers paid could have kept the road deputies on patrol.

        But, as many of you have said, who need them anyway….

        (Report comment)

  • swimmingupstream

    I officially give up. I’m throwing in the towel. There is no hope.

    It is quite obvious from this latest fit of childishness that Lawrence County will never have a functioning 911 dispatch center that receives and dispatches all emergency calls.

    Neither the sheriff nor the commissioners will give up their fifedoms for the greater good of the county. Each have now picked up their marbles and gone their separate ways; and meantime emergency response time for us citizens in need will get worse and the now separate dispatching centers will undoubtedly snipe at one another.

    Would one of the clowns in this circus please tell me what to do if I see a wreck and one of the vehicles is on fire? Do I call the sheriff, or 911? Or since the sheriff only dispatches police and 911 fire and ambulances do I call them both? Which one first?

    The parties in this ridiculous drama need to be locked in a room until they figure out how to combine all the dispatching under one roof and operate a responsive sheriff’s department.

    Yeah….That’s gonna happen….

    (Report comment)

  • south point

    Brovo commissioners for taking 911 from sheriff that is the best move you all have done ! Now next move is to take the sheriffs office over and relieve him of hi duties . Then the county can get back on track !! Thanks again commissioners !!!!!

    (Report comment)

  • jimmer

    You mean to tell me that politicians lied about our financial situation to get re-elected? I CANNOT believe it. And Freddie Hayes of all people should know what is going on with the county. This is the county you get from one-party rule. Boss Tweed Stephens is probably having a rough time in his newly remodeled auditor’s office.

    (Report comment)

  • Angie

    14 part-time dispatchers?????? Someone want to explain that? Why so many?

    (Report comment)

  • Ironton77

    I think Freddie Hayes nailed it right on the head. One minute the county is ‘great’ the next minute it’s in the toilet. It was just in the fall we had commissioners bragging about our financial status and how long it had been since the county had done so well. Now we are broke?? Where o where did all the money go??

    And squadjockey you’re right, give the 1m to the Sheriff to run 911 was the whole idea in merging the two. Then when the Sheriff actually takes over and they cut his funds…he starts stepping on toes when he gives lay off notices to the part time employees. So the first thing they do is jerk it out from under him! If I were him I wouldn’t take 911 back for all the money in the world. Let them keep it. I would run the department til the money is gone then shut the doors. Meigs County did it. We can too.

    (Report comment)

  • Poor Richard

    The sheriff was right on regarding ‘wasted funds’ or spending on luxuries rather than necessities in many of the county offices, particularly the COUNTY COMMISSIONERS. Very nicely put on the nightly television news Channel 3.

    I guess we could continue to discuss all the wasted money for new air conditioners and heating units, for newly remodeled offices (auditor), for all those funds dumped into the CAO over the years, for all the salaries for relatives and buddies and on and on and on.

    If county citizens, or I should say those of us that actually pay the bills in this county rather than those receiving government handouts, are hurt, injured, robbed or murdered because the county commissioners could not find enough money to pay law enforcement (the most important job in this county), they may want to consult an attorney to their ultimate responsibility to those citizens should are injured due to ‘budget cuts’. Fine lines gentlemen, fine lines.

    (Report comment)

  • Ozzy

    “anticon” name one Deputy that is related to a politician. Come on name one????

    Once again factless hatred by someone that has no clue.

    PS> Don’t run stop signs and you will not have to worry about it.

    (Report comment)

  • anticon

    Laying off Lawrence County deputies is always a good idea. They’re Barney Fiffe wannabes who are related to some county politician. Now if we could just get rid of South Point cops, whose only function is to hide and pull over people who run the stop sign at the corner of Solida Road and Sand Road!

    (Report comment)

  • Not Me

    Do a little homework or tell the truth squadjockey. Most of Scioto County is covered by township squads that still consume tax money and may or may not provide paramedic level services. The privates cover Sciotoville and Portsmouth. I’ve worked in that system before and coverage is terrible since all the trucks may be tied up with the cash cows of doctor appointments and dialysis and not available for true emergencies. You will never get the coverage from private services that you get from the county service because the money just isn’t there. Profit is the name of the game and there is no profit from taking all of the 911 calls.

    (Report comment)

    • squadjockey

      Excuse me pointer92, you mean to tell me that a service assuming approximately 10,000 calls per year couldn’t make money? Remove the $1 million allocated by the commissioners – all a service would need to do is increase the billing rate slightly to get a bit more out of private insurance companies and auto insurance. There it is! Most of Scioto County is indeed covered by Township Fire Department EMS services. However, the clear majority of calls are handled by private agencies. I’m not sure, but, are the FD based units paid? I know a few are.

      Now on the subject of availability -most private services have greater resources than county based agencies (more units). Here, we have 6 units available and frequently run out of units as the Ironton trucks are on interfacility transports. If we privatize services, we get to combine county and private resources to increase the number of units on the road.

      I’m sure you’re a county EMS employee and I do not want anyone to lose a job. At the end of the day, who cares what name is on the side of the ambulance? The only thing you’d lose is OPERS. Your insurance premiums and coverage stink anyways.

      Lawrence County EMS workers have crappy pay for the amount of time and dedication they’ve put into their careers. Surely a private service could compensate them more reasonably.

      This is only my opinion. It’s an opinion that makes sense and its certainly an answer to a problem that seems to have no answer.
      I’m not trying to provoke you. I’m trying to get my opinion out there and let it serve as a catalyst for change in our county’s fiscal emergency.

      (Report comment)

  • squadjockey

    The answer to the Sheriff’s department’s funding issues is quite simple – do away with county funded EMS and privatize it. Scioto County seems to do quite well with private EMS agencies running the show.

    Take the $1 million allocated for EMS and give it to the sheriff!

    Contract with a private service to cover the stations and calls. Most would do it for nothing just to get the run volume!

    Just a thought.

    (Report comment)

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