Move to study dispatch merger long overdue

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 12, 2005

Every year or two someone talks about the need to merge the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office dispatching with the 911 call center - and just as quickly the issue usually goes away.

Naysayers are quick to point out the flaws: It is too expensive. It would be impossible to administrate. Too many unions are involved. Training is not consistent.

The list goes on and on. And each every one of those are excuses - pure and simple. The county leaders must step up and look at the issue objectively to determine what is best for the entire county.

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The politicians must forget about who will lose a job, who will be upset and who will take their votes elsewhere. Will some people oppose it? Certainly. Does that mean they are correct? Absolutely not.

Right now, the sheriff's office has six dispatchers who handle calls to that office. The county's 911 dispatch, operated by the Lawrence County Emergency Services Agency, has seven full-time and seven part-time employees who dispatch for the county's fire departments. The 911 dispatchers transfer medical calls they receive to SEOEMS and law enforcement calls to either the sheriff's office or the Ironton Police Department.

Commissioner Jason Stephens and Sheriff Tim Sexton have each separately prepared plans that would combine the systems. While we don't know enough to endorse either plan, we applaud both for looking at ways to save money. We all know the county needs it.

Stephens' plan would reduce the need for 20 dispatchers; savings would be realized through employee attrition or layoffs.

According to Stephens' figures, it costs the county $553,591 annually to maintain both systems. Combining the two would save $216,025, he said.

The sheriff plans to present firm figures on his plan when he meets with the commissioners next week. Sexton said his plan would consolidate services without eliminating jobs and could be worked through with the unions.

It is clear that lots of details must still be ironed out to see if either plan is feasible or if something else must be found.

But at least it is encouraging to know that county leaders are looking.