Officials consider closing Miner's dispatch

Monday, March 7, 2011

BENTON, Mo. -- Backpedaling from a decision to move dispatching services by half of Miner's Board of Aldermen left the other half feeling "blindsided."

During their meeting Thursday, Scott County Commissioners signed an agreement to provide dispatching services for the city. On Friday morning, the Miner Board of Alderman met to look over the agreement but tabled the matter until its April meeting for further study with a split vote.

Charles McLemore, Miner's mayor pro tem, was initially in favor of the idea because shutting down the city's dispatch would lead to big savings.

"I was looking at the money," McLemore said, "as it would "save us about $150,000 a year." The city currently employs four full-time dispatchers.

Feedback from Miner's citizens Thursday night left him unsure, however.

"I got calls upon calls upon calls upon calls," he said. "I'm not going to go forward with this against their wishes."

Board member Deloris Smith and McLemore voted to table the matter until April while board members Rickie Hampton and Peggy Holman voted against tabling. McLemore then broke the tie as the acting mayor.

Holman and Hampton said they felt "blindsided" and "sideswiped" by the other board members' change of heart.

Jamie Burger, presiding commissioner in Scott County, said the contract would not affect 911 as the county already answers those calls.

"In fact, this will speed up the process, because those calls are then sent to Miner to be dispatched," he said. "So we are actually taking a step out of the process."

Earlier this week, the commission, as well as Amber Scudder, emergency management manager for Scott County, and representatives of the sheriff's department met with Miner officials at the city's request to discuss the possible merger.

"We've had this dialogue for a while, but this was a dialogue between all the people involved to get this project off the ground," Burger sid.

Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn called it a win-win situation.

"Miner is going to save some money, and Scott County will provide a service and receive much needed revenue," he said.

As the final details are not yet worked out, Ziegenhorn said its unclear how much income Scott County will generate from the program.

In addition to the dispatching service, Burger said Scott County will take over the MULE -- Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement -- system for Miner, and input and execute any warrants for the city.

If the deal with Miner does go through as planned, Scott County towns that still do their own dispatching will be Chaffee, Scott City and Sikeston. Ziegenhorn said the commission would offer a similar agreement for any of those municipalities that would like to come on board.

"We're offering this service to anybody in Scott County that would like to have an agreement with us," he said.

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