Sheriff Jeff Lawless addresses the county commissioners as well as members of his staff concerning layoffs Thursday during the weekly commissioners’ meeting.

Archived Story

Sheriff back to running 911

Published 9:34am Friday, January 18, 2013


In front of a chamber filled with sheriff’s office employees, the Lawrence County Commission pumped up Sheriff Jeff Lawless’ budget by $340,000 and put him back in charge of a consolidated 911 dispatching center, reversing last week’s commission actions.

Now the question remains, will that additional funding enable the sheriff to stop all of the threatened layoffs scheduled to go into effect in five weeks?

The sheriff said he wants to sit down with the county auditor and review the figures before determining if Thursday’s decisions will enable him to rescind the layoffs.

“It sounds promising to support the road deputies and dispatchers without layoffs,” Lawless said after the meeting. “Will we need all 14 part-time dispatchers? Possibly we will not.”

Last week, Lawless sent out layoff notices to five road deputies, 14 part-time 911 dispatchers, one part-time sheriff’s dispatcher, a part-time corrections officer and the director of 911 after his budget was funded $400,000 less than it was in 2012. That was part of the 2013 budget mandate that cut salaries of all offices by 23.5 percent.

As far as calling back 911 director Lonnie Best, Lawless said, “We will have to see if the funds are there to support his position.”

At last Thursday’s meeting Lawless agreed to a proposal by Commissioner Les Boggs to pull 911 from the sheriff’s jurisdiction to save the jobs of the 14 part-time 911 dispatchers that were to be laid off. Boggs then proposed taking $75,000 from the 911 dispatching budget and transferring it to the sheriff’s dispatchers, plus $150,000 from unappropriated money in the half-percent sales tax account.

These motions passed unanimously.

However, at this Thursday’s meeting, Pratt and Commissioner Freddie Hayes reversed course and overturned last week’s actions to make more funding available to the sheriff. Boggs did not attend the meeting as he was in court for an arraignment on a domestic abuse charge.

“We were not satisfied with what happened (at last week’s meeting),” Commission President Bill Pratt said. “That will fix part of the problem.”

Before presenting his alternate motion Pratt cautioned the audience.

“There is not enough money for the county to fund everything,” he said. “Once this is done, appropriations will be done for the year.”

Then Pratt proposed transferring $120,000 from the wireless 911 fund for operating the dispatching service and $220,000 from the unappropriated money in the half percent sales tax to the road deputy budget, bringing that fund up to $1,001,250. That is approximately $3,900 more than was spent for deputies’ salaries and retirement in 2012.

The wireless 911 account is funded from a charge on every cell phone in the county. That money goes to the state that transfers back a portion of it. Last year there was $168,000 in that fund from a 28-cent per phone charge. But the legislature was considering eliminating the charge and only adopted a reduced fee of 25-cents per phone on Dec. 20, the day the commission approved their budget.

“We were in limbo,” Pratt said. “We passed our budget not knowing if (the money) was there.”

The reason the commission did not appropriate all of the half percent sales tax was to have a carryover for 2014.

“We are confident sales tax will be enough and that will be held back for carryover for 2014,” the commissioner said.

With the consolidation of 911, Pratt said there will have to be efficiencies at the center and the number of dispatchers may need to be adjusted.

“I think that this will fix the problem,” Pratt said. “It is an appropriate and realistic plan.”

However Lawless cautioned that he would review the figures to confirm of the new transfers will cover all employee costs.

“Emotions have been running high,” the sheriff told the commission. “What we need to do is sit down with the auditor and get a look at the numbers and what we need to be able to provide for the safety of the county.”

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  • farmer92

    I feel that this is the same way the federal govt is run.Spend what you want without worrying how to pay for it.This has been a political clash between the sheriff and 911.911 is funded by a fee and the sheriff wants control of that money to run his department.There has been no improvement in emergency response that he said he would make.It was just a source of money for him.

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  • Skye

    All I know is, something needs to be changed. I had a medical emergency last week and called 911, had to give them my name and address and the nature of my emergency and then be connected to EMS and had to give them the same info: I’m not blaming the people at all, but the system needs improvement….peace!

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  • Ironton Cares

    I knew he would get his way, he always does, all of these people just get slaps on the wrists and tell them to go spend more money, never fails, I give up!

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  • First2Respond

    I think everything needs to be consolidated to have a PSCC (Public Service Communicatin Center) just like most of the other 911 centers in neighboring counties in Ohio as well as Boyd and Cabell. Having everything dispatched out of one room makes sense. It saves time to and the information will be more reliable. It is frustrating to have to give the story and personal information to so many people.
    I also think that having part time dispatchers saves the county money. Why would they want to get rid of that? By having so many part timers you have no overtime to pay out and no benefits. From my understanding most of them are EMTs that work around their schedules. These are the people that work night and day for us to keep us safe and enjoy this line of work. I don’t understand why you would want to lose them and take away a part time job to fund more full timers, have less people to cover the shifts and have to pay for benefits. Don’t try to fix what isn’t broke.

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  • mulady1337

    In most places EMS/Fire & law enforcement are all one house dispatched by the same people. Why theirs/his? Part time employees are necessary because of the 24/7/365 time period. or should there be more full time people?

    There are 3 cell phones in my house alone. I don’t miss that 25/50 cents on each of them each month. That charge is hidden so far in my bill with all of the other taxes etc that it is just part of the privilege of owning a cell phone. I don’t like to pay MORE for things than anyone else does but sometimes we have to pay for services you don’t always SEE until you need them and it is too late to worry about who pays for them.

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  • swimmingupstream

    My, Oh my….The more things change the more they stay the same….

    I’m not really clear on what all this really means, but if by “consolidation” the commissioners mean that the sheriff will be in charge of 911 and keep his sheriff’s dispatching center completely separate? Or does “consolidation” mean the two entities finally will be put in the same room and I can call 911 and get both the police and fire and ambulance???

    If the first scenario is correct, then absolutely nothing has change as a result of all this drama.

    If the second scenario is correct, I’ll probably faint.

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  • SoundByte

    unappropriated money, another way of saying sitting on it, hiding it while you cry we MUST raise taxes and charges cause we are so broke? Fix it? Still robbing peter to pay paul. How sore peter will be again. Less sheriff vehicles out on personal business would help I am sure with gas prices what they are. (superamerica (or whatever it is called now), sunday morning. She was in basically pajamas still getting coffee and snakcs with the cruiser in the parking lot still running. Less cell phone use and more job attention helps too. We all see them, even a post of one on a cell phone on fb circulating. Wow other ideas beside taxing and charging everybody else :O what a concept! You can ban smoking in public places, city buildings, city vehicles. Then surely you can pass a ban on cell phones in the cruisers! Ironton traffic used to have to toe the line now you seldom see anyone being ticketed. Loud/no mufflers, broken windshields, disturbing the peace, music too loud, tint too dark, rolling stops (see it all the time), failure to stop, etc etc etc :O lookie there, I should be on council. Revenue without trying to break the common citizens pocketbooks!!! Not rocket science after all.

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