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Sheriff to take over 911 dispatching

 Commission president unhappy with process


The county 911 dispatching is now under the jurisdiction of the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office.

That consolidation was the result of a 2-1 vote of the county commissioners, but not before critical comments from Commission President Les Boggs who opposed the move and the way the vote was taken.

At its Thursday meeting Sheriff Jeff Lawless presented a three-prong proposal for his department asking for $150,000 more in his budget from the commission to pay road deputies; approval to take over the 911 dispatching and for the commission enter into a contract with the Ironton Lawrence County Community Action Organization for a work farm/alternative sentencing program. That farm is county law enforcement officials’ answer to the new state mandate that fourth and fifth degree felons be housed in county jails rather than state prisons.

Currently Ironton officials are looking for an agency to take over its dispatching since that city service has only been funded through June.

Lawless had informally presented his proposal to the commissioners at their Tuesday work session at the request of Commissioner Bill Pratt. Boggs did not attend that session because of previously scheduled medical appointments.

After Lawless offered his proposal Thursday Boggs asked the sheriff what the current cost of housing prisoners in the county jail was.

“One of the major concerns with the alternative plan is the financing, if we can receive other money,” Boggs said.

The sheriff said that the most current figures place the cost at $33 per prisoner a day. However with chronic overcrowding at the jail, the county also houses up to 10 prisoners at the Scioto County Jail for $48 a day per person. The work farm would cost the county $40 a day per worker up to 30 individuals.

Boggs told the sheriff that the commissioners would discuss these issues later and get back with him. However, during the meeting, Pratt brought the matter up again, bringing each request of the sheriff up to a vote.

“I would like to take action today,” Pratt said. “This is a nice combination of issues that is addressing many of the problems.”

Boggs took exception to Pratt’s request saying he had not been a part of the discussions.

“Mr. Pratt, I couldn’t be involved (Tuesday),” Boggs said in a raised voice. “Why can’t we meet separately? I am very supportive of the sheriff but sometimes we need to talk as a commission. I think it is amiss I don’t have the opportunity to speak with the other commissioners.”

“This issue has been ongoing,” Pratt replied before making his first motion.

“The first (resolution on road deputy funds) I don’t have a problem with, but the second and third I have concerns,” Boggs said.

“Ironton has said it will not fund dispatchers past June,” Pratt said. “It is our responsibility to protect those citizens. …We need to be more efficient. Who do we have in charge? 911 or the sheriff? The sheriff is like the commander in chief.”

Then Pratt went through each of the three resolutions with all three commissioners voting for the $150,000 additional road deputy funding and Boggs voting against the 911 consolidation and the work farm all motions were second by newly appointed commissioner, Freddie Hayes.

During the commissioners’ report Boggs elaborated on his concerns.

“There are some things that are underlying to the combining all dispatching … not because I am 100 percent in disagreement with it,” he said. “I was not included in the meeting. There are underlying (things) that need to be talked out. I felt we needed more discussion.”

After the meeting Boggs said his major concern with the consolidation was that it placed the 911 dispatching under a political subdivision, i.e. the sheriff’s office.

“This could change each time when you have someone new in office,” he said.

“This items wasn’t on the agenda to be voted on but rather to be received and studied. I feel like subsequent discussion among the commissioners was needed.”

However. Pratt said 911 right now is under a political subdivision, the commission.

“(Now there’s only) one person to make the decision, rather than three,” Pratt said. “They are in the business of communication. Why not have them work together?”

Boggs said his concern with the work farm was per diem cost and the number who would participate.

“What happens if you have 500 people,” he asked. “I have trouble signing a contract when I didn’t have a chance to talk about it.”

However according to the terms of the proposed contract, there is a $65,000 cap on the amount to be spent by the commissioners on the farm workers with a maximum of 30 workers participating at one time.

“We don’t expect it to be 30 at all times,” Pratt said.

Funding will come from the money designated for the 2013 carryover for the general fund. Road deputies’ salaries will come from the 2013 carryover for the one-half percent sales tax fund.