E911 declines savings move
by Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
25 days ago | 1059 views | 6 6 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TUPELO - Despite funding shortfalls, Lee County E911 won't adopt staff changes that could save an estimated $47,000 in overtime costs.

It was deemed too little savings for too much effort, according to Lee County E911 Director Paul Harkins, who said staff morale would suffer as a result.

But Tupelo Fire Chief Thomas Walker, who sits on the E911 Commission, said even small savings are important when public dollars are at stake.

"I understand that attitude in a private industry," Walker said during a recent City Council work session, "but when I'm handed a budget, I need to make sure I can operate on this."

The emergency response agency recently requested and received a nearly 60 percent overall funding increase from Lee County, its municipalities and the North Mississippi Medical Center for the services it provides.

That boosted those entities' combined annual allocations to $500,000, but it's expected to increase over the next few years to $750,000 to cover the rising costs of technology and personnel.

Lee County E911 has a team of dispatchers who provide emergency-related services to individuals, municipalities, law enforcement agencies, medical responders and organizations throughout the county.

It costs about $1.6 million annually to fund the operation, which gets a substantial portion of its revenue from telephone surcharges but also relies on contributions from the cities and county.

Those contributions, however, haven't been enough to cover operating expenses. And E911 was dipping into its reserves to make ends meet, Harkins said.

Lee County E911 also wants to reduce expenses, which is why Harkins met with Walker to review personnel costs. Walker had adopted a new schedule for his firefighters in 2009 that saved the city an estimated $268,000 in overtime costs.

He proposed similar changes for E911, whose dispatchers work 12-hour shifts and rack up 36 hours one week and 48 hours the next. By law, they must receive overtime pay after exceeding 40 weekly hours. The new schedule would have altered the shifts and reduced the number of workers during certain hours.

"Logistically and scheduling-wise, it would have been a nightmare," Harkins said. "And beyond that, it's a morale problem. So, it's probably not going to be worth it out of a $550,000 salary budget to only be $50,000 short."

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January 13, 2012
Your house is on fire? Hang on, I've got to take care of this officer chasing a bank robber first. This might take a minute. Sorry about your house. Cut backs on personnel may result in dispatchers having to make such a choice. They are stretched very thin as it is most of the time. You not-so-wise people have no idea the hoops these folks sometimes have to jump through 24 hours a day for not as much money as you might think they are making. I don't think their overtime comes in the form of cash either, rather comp time or days off. Something to think about the next time you need the police, fire dept, sheriffs dept, verona, shannon, pville, saltillo guntown police and fire, etc. or someone to tell you how to do CPR, render first aid til help arrives, or stay on the phone with you til PD gets there when you are scared, because they are ALL dispatched from that one little building manned by four people at the MOST busiest of times. No, I do not work there. But I did work for one of the departments they serve and as such I know the drill. Show some respect. There's a lot more funding wasted on much less important things in this area... trust me. That sounds like a lot of money but it is also spent for radios, computers, and maintaining towers and equipment too. That stuff doesn't come cheap. I think Mr. Harkins is playing it smart. The LAST thing they need there is LESS people.

January 13, 2012
and EMS Paramedics too. I accidentally left them out. My apologies.
January 13, 2012
Just too much trouble to re-organize? Easier to just spend $50,000 than to work it out?

Is this $50,000 annually? The towns that recently chipped in to bump up the E911 budget by 60 percent really ought to be questioning Harkins's judgment here.
January 13, 2012
If Harkins can't figure out how to schecule his staff, I suspect he needs to be replaced.
January 13, 2012
Walker is absolutely correct. Harkins is deranged. A 10% savings is tremendous...and where are the "reserves" he is dipping into coming from if he can't make his budget?
January 13, 2012
Government mindset on budgets just amazes me. Why even have one if you are not going to abide by it? The only entitiy that can consistently go over budget and still remain operational is the government. Every other entity either closes or goes bankrupt. However, even the governemnt is not above the basics of finance forever. Eventually, it all catches up to you.

Sadly, politicians are only interested in getting reelected rather than being good stewards of their employers (taxpayers) money! Even worse is the majority of the employers keep electing these people time and time again. So who's the fool?