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Lawless responds to Ironton chief on 911


In the verbal battleground that has surrounded the merger of the emergency dispatchers, Sheriff Jeff Lawless fired the latest salvo.

At Thursday’s county commission meeting Lawless refuted statements made by Ironton Police Chief Jim Carey that he has gotten little cooperation from the sheriff’s office and other county agencies to help with city dispatching.

“I have never said that we will not dispatch for the Ironton Police Department,” Lawless told the commission reading from a prepared statement. “The sheriff could dispatch for the police department immediately if asked.”

Recently Ironton City Council said the city police dispatchers would stop handling 911 calls as a way to reduce a budget deficit. City officials had met with the county commission and Lawless about the possibility of the sheriff’s office handling city emergency calls.

The sheriff said that he would have to hire two full-time employees and a part-time worker to pick up the city calls at a cost of $125,000 to Ironton.

“Several times in the last few months we have been more than cooperative in trying to help them resolve their problems,” Lawless said.

Last month the county commission put the 911 dispatching service under the authority of the sheriff’s office consolidating that with his operation. That was done in a 2 to 1 vote by commission with Commission President Les Boggs voting against.

Boggs said he had not been included in a meeting leading up to the vote and was critical of the way the vote was taken.

Right now the sheriff is relocating that consolidated operation to a single venue and will hire additional personnel.

“For 11 years county leaders have expressed the need to have 911 be a countywide agency, but no one made a move,” the sheriff said. “Two commissioners decided to move 911 forward … and make 911 what it should be to help all citizens. … But there are a few people who are hoping it will be a failure.”

Originally Ironton had set June 30 as the date for ceasing its dispatching operation. However on Monday all dispatchers were notified that they would be laid off on May 18, a move Lawless said he was not informed about that decision.

Ironton is also in negotiations with Greenup County to handle the city’s dispatching for a possible cost of $105,000.

“Why not spend it right here,” Lawless asked. “The city would like this to be done for free but we will have to come with the funds.”

Carey has said publicly that he believes the sheriff’s office should not charge the city for dispatching.

All three commissioners gave Lawless their support in his efforts to consolidate emergency dispatching.

“We have put public safety as a top priority,” Commissioner Bill Pratt said. “I am very disappointed. But we will recover. We will do this with their help or without.”

In other business the commission

• Requested a prosecutor’s opinion on the legality of extending hangar leases at the county airpark for 30 years;

• Approved promotion of Robyn McClaskey and Cheryl Waller at the Department of Job and Family Services;

• Accepted surplus computer equipment from Ohio State University Extension.

• Announced that next Thursday’s meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the Burlington Commons Park.