Archived Story

Transfers delayed for 911 changes

Published 12:01am Sunday, January 13, 2013

The transfer of funds to keep 14 part-time 911 dispatchers and the full-time director on the job won’t happen until the Lawrence County Commissioners clarify to the county auditor what they want to have happen.

“It is hard to tell exactly what money is to be moved to which account and taken from which account,” County Auditor Jason Stephens said Friday after receiving instructions from the commission earlier that day.

Stephens’ request was in response to a letter from the commission to his office stating “Mr. Boggs offered a motion to make 911 stand alone give them a budget of $550,000 transfer $75,000 that we already appropriated to 911 over to the sheriff’s department along with an additional $150,000 from A02 (half-percent sales tax) Also to call back Lonnie Best, Supervisor 911, to call back all 911 dispatchers that received lay off notices.”

The auditor also sent a letter to Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson seeking an opinion on the legality of the commissioners removing 911 from the sheriff’s office.

In the Ohio Revised Code 307.63, “the county sheriff shall operate the countywide public safety communications system unless before commencing operation of the system, the sheriff gives written notice to the board of county commissioners that he chooses not to do so.”

On Thursday the commissioners pulled 911 dispatching away from the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s office, a merger which they had approved in March when 911 and sheriff’s office dispatching were put under one jurisdiction.

The move was done after Sheriff Jeff Lawless went to commission seeking additional funds to keep from making drastic cuts in personnel from 911 and his office.

Stephens is seeking the clarifications in order to know who has the authority to approve payroll and purchase orders out of the 911 dispatching fund.

“We have to determine which account to pay (employees) out of if the sheriff is no longer authorized to pay payroll out of the 911 funds,” Stephens said. “We need to know that and since it happened without a date we need to know what effective date so we can calculate.”

However the need for the prosecutor’s opinion may be moot since Friday afternoon Lawless sent the commissioners a letter stating he was giving up authority over 911.

“In an effort to keep the 911 service fully operational and to keep 15 people employed, I agreed to give my 911 service back to the county,” Lawless said.

On Wednesday Lawless sent out layoff notices to five road deputies, the 14 dispatchers, the 911 director, a part-time corrections officer and a part-time sheriff’s dispatcher after the commission cut $400,000 from his budget.

In December the commissioners adopted a budget that mandated a 23.5 percent cut in salaries for all county offices.

In a 20-minute exchange between the sheriff and commissioners at Thursday’s meeting, Lawless repeatedly asked for funding to keep the deputies on the road and to run the 911 center. The sheriff was told that every officeholder had to make 23.5 percent cuts in salaries for the 2013 budget.

However, to prevent laying off the dispatchers, Commissioner Bill Pratt made a motion to transfer $150,000 from $258,000 in the half-percent sales tax account that was not appropriated for the 2013 budget.

But before the commissioners voted on that motion, Commission President 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. Boggs said that transfer would come from the 911 budget with the remaining funds equal to the amount spent to run 911 when it was an independent agency.

The $225,000 would be earmarked to fund the sheriff’s five dispatchers, removing them from the 911 budget.

Next Friday is the regular payday for county workers, but with 550 employees to be paid the auditor’s office begins the process a week in advance.

“Everybody is to get paid,” Stephens said. “Peopl

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