Rather than risk losing non-emergency police dispatch services for the town, the Alexandria City Council Tuesday night voted to enter into a contract with the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District (911 Board) and pay $26,000 a year in monthly installments for the city's part in support of the operation.
All four aldermen in attendance voted \"yes\" including Charles Griffith, Sarah Walker, James Keys, and Jim York. Aldermen Eddie Tubbs and Jimmy Mullinax were absent.
For the last two years, the City of Alexandria has not been paying for the service and currently owes $52,000, but 911 Board Chairman Ron Rogers told the Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday night that the board had decided to forgive the past debt, if the city would make a commitment to make their $26,000 annual payment from now on and sign a contract with the board. Otherwise, the 911 board would give a 30 day written notice that while it would continue to dispatch all emergency calls, it would no longer provide non-emergency services for the City of Alexandria.
Alderman Griffith explained that the reason for non-payment was not because the city was trying to be difficult or didn't want to pay, but because of budget constraints.
When the E-911/ Central Dispatch Center was in the planning stages, the DeKalb County Government, City of Smithville, and City of Alexandria agreed to appropriate funding for a non-emergency, twenty four hour a day, seven day a week answering service and direct dispatch of non-emergency calls for their law enforcement agencies.
In his presentation to the board, Bradley Mullinax, Director of Emergency Communications, says the DeKalb County Government and City of Smithville each pay $108,000 a year and the City of Alexandria's part is $26,000. He says these figures for the cities are based on population size. DeKalb County E-911 funds the remainder of the costs associated with emergency and non-emergency dispatch personnel totaling approximately $135,000.
Mullinax explained that the city's payment of $26,000 a year is not to provide the emergency 911 service because that is funded from charges of 65 cents to DeKalb County residents and $2.00 to businesses on their telephone bills. The 911 fees cover the response to 911 emergency calls and direct dispatch of those calls and for the 911 addressing service for the citizens of the county.
The city's payment, he says, is to cover costs of answering and dispatching the non-emergency calls that are received from the citizens of the town. A non-emergency call is any call that does not pose an immediate threat to life or property.
Mullinax further explained that the city's payment also covers costs of accessing information from the National Crime Information Computer (NCIC) system, for record management, and to record and provide information from callers and responders for the city.
Mullinax says the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District answers all emergency 911 calls and all non-emergency administrative calls for three law enforcement agencies including the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and the Smithville and Alexandria Police Departments, as well as three fire departments, DeKalb County, Smithville, and Alexandria; one EMS agency (DeKalb County Ambulance Service); and one Rescue Squad
Mullinax says if the City of Alexandria were to choose to go it alone and not contract with the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District, it would be much more expensive than $26,000 per year, perhaps as much as $95,000 for the first year and $80,000 per year thereafter in order to set up a dispatch system and to meet all the state and federal requirements to operate it.
Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins later told the Mayor and Aldermen that the services provided by the Central Dispatch system were \"crucial\" to his department and that he would not want his officers pulling over anyone without those services, because it is too dangerous.
Since Collins has been Police Chief, the city has collected several thousands of dollars in fines from speeding tickets, and Collins says he believes that money could be a source of funding to offset the city's costs of continuing the service with Central Dispatch.
Collins says neither he nor his officers write tickets to anyone unless they exceed the speed limit by at least twelve miles per hour, but there are enough of those, that the department could easily write as many as fifty tickets per month.
In other business, Alexandria Fire Chief Shelie \"Pee Wee\" Askew submitted a letter to the board announcing his retirement as chief, although he will continue to serve as a first responder.
The board voted to select Wesley Slager as the new Alexandria Fire Chief.
The board also voted to hire Cody Jenkins as a full time police officer. He will join Chief Collins and officer Chris McMillen on the force.
Chief Collins says there are sufficient funds in the budget to fund the position.