October 15, 2013

County dispatch discussion continues

October 15, 2013 Staff Writer Cydney Baron

PRYOR, OK — The discussion on whether to make Mayes Emergency Services Trust Authority’s 911 Center a blanket agency for all county dispatch continues.

Mayes County Commissioners are considering separating the 911 Center from MESTA. Mayes County currently contracts MESTA to provide 911 service for the county.  

The commissioners write a check for $15,000 per month to MESTA to operate the 911 Center. Any remaining funds are left in a 911 Center account to pay for equipment for the center through purchase orders.

While MESTA is governed by a board, the county 911 Center is run solely by Director Rick Langkamp.

All 911 Center employees are MESTA employees, which has caused several agencies to feel they are not receiving the same service as MESTA. Representatives of multiple agencies, who wish to remain anonymous, said their agencies are on the back burner.

Further tension is created by MESTA using county equipment as a revenue source. All equipment, such as radios, fees, contracts and many more items for MESTA are paid for by the county. MESTA uses county equipment in the 911 Center then contracts with other agencies in Rogers County and provide a dispatching service for a fee. The revenue is then placed into the MESTA account.

Other county agencies, like the sheriff's office, are required to pay for their own equipment and dispatching fees.

Commissioners have heard complaints from several entities and individuals saying the service received when calling the 911 Center is sub-par.

The center is located in the MidAmerica Industrial Park in a building paid for by a grant awarded to Mayes County 911, which should not effect the transition should the commissioners choose to make the change.

The proposal made by the Board of County Commissioners at the meeting Oct. 7 was to separate the center from MESTA, making it a stand-alone agency. The center would then have representatives  from multiple agencies dispatching in the same room. Commissioner Darrell Yoder said the new configuration would decrease the probability of dropped calls. It would also decrease the likelihood of different units being dispatched with conflicting information. Commissioners say several agencies have expressed interest to be represented in the 911 Center, but will not do so while it is operated by MESTA.

Currently, a 50-cent tax on cell phones goes to the county's MESTA fund. Commissioner Alva Martin said there is legislation in the works that will raise that tax to $1.50. Both Martin and Yoder feel the only way to welcome the agencies who would like to be incorporated into the center is to level the playing field by making the center its own agency. Martin and Yoder say the services offered by the center would not suffer and the transition should be made as smoothly as possible.

As discussion continues, commissioners are welcoming input from both sides of the argument. Some opposed to the change say the center is operating as well as can be expected and that there is no need to fix something that is not broken, while others believe the entire process can be simplified for efficiency.

 Yoder said he wants what is best for the county and believes having all departments under the same roof is more efficient and ultimately better for the citizens of Mayes County.

The commissioners will entertain further discussion at future commissioner meetings.

 

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