The Pryor Times

December 3, 2013

911 Center becomes independent

Staff Writer
Cydney Baron

PRYOR, OK — Coming in from a four-day weekend, Mayes County Board of Commissioners met Monday to discuss terminating the contract between the 911 Center and Mayes Emergency Services Authority.

The idea was presented at a board meeting several weeks ago, but discussion came to a head last week. Concluding that meeting, the commissioners decided to table the issue to allow commissioner Darrell Yoder time to create a presentation regarding the transition of the the center to a separate entity.

Yoder went through a PowerPoint presentation in which he outlined pay structure and staffing solutions for the proposed independent center. He outlined operating expenses from the big-ticket items down to smaller items such as uniforms and utility bills.

“Total employee expenses are $206,485.80 and operational expenses are $76,632.06. That means the total 911 expense is $282,117.86,” Yoder said.

Moving on to income, Yoder said hardline income comes in at $115,534.32 and wireless income reaches $180,112.63. The total income, he said, is $295,646.95.

“Additional income proposed; fire departments pay $36,000 per year, take funding from the northeast corner that is going to Craig County (estimated at $15,000 per year),” Yoder reported. “With this additional income, it would make capital outlay after all expenses paid $64,529.09 per year.”

Yoder presented a timeline for change, providing estimated completion dates with each item on the timeline as well as corresponding commissioner meeting dates.

“I am still convinced it will run on its own,” Yoder said, concluding his presentation. “To make this a better situation for all citizens, this needs to happen. I make a motion to terminate the contract between MESTA and the 911 Center to allow the center to become independent and bring all dispatchers under one roof.”

Commissioner Alva Martin seconded the motion.

Harriett Dunham, who previously served on the MESTA board, presented several questions to the commissioners for consideration.

Dunham asked if the split would bring further liability to the county and if fire departments are willing to pay additional dispatch fees.

She said that the idea had been discussed in the past and the sheriff's office and the city of Pryor were unable to make the transition at that time.

She told the commissioners that terminating the contract does not ensure all dispatch will transition to be under one roof.

“I'm just asking questions as a citizen. I'm not a MESTA board member anymore,” said Dunham. “Often things look good on paper, but unless you sit down and talk it out with everyone involved you won't know if you can really make it work.”

Commissioner Ryan Ball told Yoder he had missed some expenses in his presentation.

“This brings direct liability to this board,” Ball said. “We're not 911 people, we're not trained for this. When you get this transition made I guarantee you'll have more expenses.

“As far as fire departments go, no, I don't think they want to pay more. I've got two in my district that said if they are charged more they would rather go back to the old fire phones.”

Former Fire Chief Sherman Weaver,  who currently serves on the MESTA board,  addressed the group.

“If you look at the big picture, I don't see how the commissioners will be taking in more liability. Taxpayer money is taxpayer money,” said Weaver. “I've been around fire departments a big part of my life. I think if you've got departments willing to go backwards to fire phones, there's a deeper problem there.”

“Well after that fire tax redistribution, we've still got some soreness,” said Ball.

“We're all here to look out for the county. Any time we are moving backwards, we are not doing what's best for this county. It's as simple as that,” said Weaver.

Ball asked about a lease and Yoder said he has a draft ready to present.

“It's a big change, I hope it's for the better. I just don't see it right now,” said Ball.

“I'm sure there will be a few hiccups, there always are when big changes are made,” said Yoder.

“I'm not going to throw any mud, that's not why we're here. I am here to make a change, to help the county any way I can. I stand by my previous motion,” said Yoder.

The motion passed with Martin and Yoder voting yes. Ball voted no.

The motion passing means the 911 Center will no longer be governed by MESTA.

Yoder stresses that the transition will not result in an interruption in service for the county, rather he hopes this will increase response time and improve emergency services.