E911 to select backup location

By Staff
McNutt may resign from board
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
As Decatur and Morgan County Enhanced 911 dispatches prepare to consolidate into one location this summer, Hartselle's role as a backup dispatch location is still uncertain.
According to E911 Hartselle representative/ board member Virginia Alexander, Hartselle was not financially able to consolidate with the Decatur and Morgan County dispatches.
"Hartselle chose to keep its dispatch here because of the great expense to the city to initially hard-shell its 911 dispatch," Alexander said. "If Hartselle consolidated, its dispatchers, who are also jailers, would have to move to the new location. The city would then have to employ four new people to fill those positions. It's just not financially possible at this time."
Alexander also said Hartselle would most likely not be able to match donation funds to E911 with Decatur to balance the dispatcher/call-taker's pay.
"Decatur pays about $500,000 per year into the 911 dispatch," District 4 Commissioner Stacy George said. "All of the dispatchers are from Decatur."
Hartselle, Decatur, and Morgan County dispatches have previously served as backup dispatches to one another when the three entities were separate.
However, Decatur and Morgan County are already sharing a common dispatch location in the Morgan County Courthouse basement and are using equipment with newer upgrades than Hartselle.
"Hartselle has good equipment and can continue to use what they have," Alexander said. "However, if Hartselle served as the consolidated dispatch's backup location, the equipment they have would get the same upgrades."
Since it is necessary for E911 to have a backup location, Alexander said the board will have to decide whether to leave the upgraded equipment in the courthouse basement or move it to Hartselle.
The equipment would be used daily if Hartselle served as the backup location. If left in the basement, it would not.
Hartselle Police Chief Ron Merkh said whether or not Hartselle is chosen as the E911 backup, the city will continue to provide effective E911 service.
"The board's opinion is split on the decision right now," Alexander said. "Cost, room, and number of seats available to dispatchers/call-takers are just a few of the factors the board will have to consider."
If the dispatch equipment is left in its current location, George and others have questioned whether the Emergency Management Agency (EMA), also located in the courthouse basement, will have access to the equipment.
E911 Board Vice President Eddie Hicks also serves as Morgan County's EMA director.
George has asked for an attorney general's opinion regarding Hicks' positions with E911 and EMA to confirm there is no conflict of interest.
"Can the EMA director be a voting member of the 911 board?" George said. " Since the EMA director is required to be on the 911 board, that position does not have a four-year term like other board members. Can we adopt a new statute to change that? These are concerns we are hoping to address in the attorney general's opinion."
George's request has raised other concerns among board members.
"Those board members who vote with Decatur have raised their own concerns about board members and representatives of Hartselle," George said.
As a result, board member Terry McNutt, who George said votes with Hartselle, may be included in the attorney general's opinion regarding a relative's application for employment.
George also said McNutt may resign from the board.
"This isn't about Decatur or Hartselle," George said. "It's about what's best for Morgan County."
The request for an attorney general's opinion and the names included in that opinion will appear on the agenda of the May 27 county commissioner's meeting at 10 a.m.
The E911 board will meet May 27 at 4:30 p.m.

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