Commissioners attend E-911 board’s session to assess budget concerns on dispatching costs

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 1/22/20

HERMANN — Gasconade County administrators will begin receiving itemized statements from the county’s Enhanced 911 Center for the non-emergency assistance calls received from three …

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Commissioners attend E-911 board’s session to assess budget concerns on dispatching costs

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HERMANN — Gasconade County administrators will begin receiving itemized statements from the county’s Enhanced 911 Center for the non-emergency assistance calls received from three departments — but it’s unclear if a proposed move by the County Commission to cut costs of the service will be made because of the potential price tag.

At issue for county officials are the details of exactly what they are paying for every three months to the 911 Center. In addition to dispatching emergency services — police, fire and ambulance — the center also performs tasks such as running checks for outstanding warrants for the Circuit Court divisions prior to a court date and entering other information into the state’s primary law enforcement computer program, the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES).

The 2019 bill from 911 for the non-emergency calls amounted to about $42,000.

Circuit Clerk and Recorder of Deeds Pam Gruenke, who submits several requests for information to be placed into, or retrieved from MULES, recently told the County Commission during a budget hearing that no detailed information had been provided regarding the non-emergency calls made to 911. Also requesting the use of MULES are Prosecuting Attorney Mary Weston and the Gasconade County Sheriff’s Department.

“We’re not getting enough information for what we’re paying for,” said Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, during last Wednesday’s monthly session of the 911 Board of Directors in Rosebud. Miskel was joined by Southern District Associate Commissioner Jerry Lairmore, R-Owensville, and Northern District Associate Commissioner Jim Holland, R-Hermann.

911 Executive Director Lisa Schlottach explained that county government is not being charged on a per-call basis. Rather, county government is paying a flat rate negotiated some time ago that is saving the county money. For instance, if county government was charged based on the number of calls, the bill would be about $57,000, rather than the $42,000 in 2019, she said.

But, she added, “I can see” where county administrators would want detailed billing information. “We can do a better job of getting that back to you guys,” Schlottach said, noting that an itemized statement could be available within a couple weeks.

As for possibly cutting the quarterly payments to the 911 Center, Miskel said administrators would explore the viability of connecting the courthouse to MULES to input and extract information during business hours Monday trough Friday. If this is a viable option, the sheriff’s department would need to be able to continue to connect to MULES through the 911 Center during non-business and weekend hours.

Schlottach said such a move would, indeed, save county taxpayers money. “If you are talking about entering your own warrants, you could save yourself quite a bit of money,” the 911 executive director said.

However, based on an explanation of the process of using MULES just to obtain outstanding warrant information on people scheduled to appear in Circuit Court, the task could prove too great. For instance, the commissioners were told a 911 staffer can take about 30 minutes searching for warrant information on those scheduled to appear in court. A single court docket can include dozens of people scheduled to appear before a judge.

“Getting connected to MULES at the courthouse is not a problem,” Miskel told the 911 board, referring to the upcoming Internet installation by Callabyte, which submitted a successful bid to provide high-speed service.

But before committing to connect to MULES, which also would include a user becoming certified to have access to the sometimes-sensitive information, such as orders of protection, Schlottach said she would give a presentation to county officeholders about the process that would be used with the system. The commissioners agreed that such a presentation would be welcomed and will arrange a presentation at an upcoming Commission session.

At Thursday’s weekly Commission session, Miskel said an effort will be made to “figure out if it’s cost-effective during business hours” to have MULES available in the courthouse. “If we have to  hire somebody (to essentially work exclusively with MULES), then it’s not going to be cost-effective,” he said.

All three commissioners rated the meeting with the 911 directors as quite productive. “It was a good meeting,” said Lairmore. “These people are very dedicated people just like we are.” “Very professional,” said Holland in assessing the discussion between the two boards.

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