Scott County commissioners still hopeful about reaching 911 deal with Sikeston

Thursday, April 12, 2012

BENTON, Mo. -- Scott County commissioners were surprised by figures presented to the Sikeston City Council on Monday but are still hopeful a 911 consolidation can be worked out.

During their Tuesday meeting, commissioners reviewed a spreadsheet prepared by Sikeston, Mo., city staff that shows anticipated costs associated with the creation and operation of a joint dispatching center.

Commissioners were scheduled to meet this week with the city council to discuss a possible contractual agreement by which the city would provide 911 dispatching services for the county.

"We're still working toward a 911 consolidation," Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger said Tuesday. "I think our 911 merger is a work in progress until Sikeston and Scott County are satisfied as far as how we arrive at our numbers."

County officials understand there are costs associated with consolidating services.

"But it looks like we're being asked to shoulder all of that," Burger said of the latest figures. "I thought it would be more of a shared cost. For the initial combination of services, it looks like we're being asked to front a lot of the money."

Commissioners said they want to pay their fair share. "We don't want to be a burden on the city," Burger said. Commissioners want to make sure the county is contributing enough to cover the costs of an effective 911 service that will ensure the safety of area residents.

Burger said he was surprised, however, by the significant difference between figures presented March 20 by Sikeston Department of Public Safety director Drew Juden and those presented during Monday's Sikeston City Council meeting.

The county's share of the project went up to more than $4 million for the five-year period from Juden's estimate of $2.8 million.

"He said it was the worst-case scenario, that his numbers were on the high end of what it could end up costing," Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn said.

"I don't see how it could jump that much," County Clerk Rita Milam said.

Commissioners said they have some questions regarding some numbers, such as the $70,000 city staff advised council members the county should pay yearly to be held in reserve by the city and the $105,000 to be charged by the city each year to cover the city's administrative costs.

"We know what it's going to cost us if we don't do anything," Ziegenhorn said. "And it will be a lot more expensive in two years."

The county budgeted $400,000 for 911 services this year but the actual annual cost of operating the county's E-911 Communications Center is somewhat higher as some costs come out of the law enforcement budget, according to commissioners.

In previous joint meetings, city and county officials estimated a combined savings of as much as $500,000 on 911 costs by cutting out duplicated services.

The benefits of installing a new 911 system in the new Department of Public Safety headquarters rather than at a later date pulling out an old system and installing a new one have also been discussed as well as easing the transition from the old system to a new one.

"Now is the time to do this thing -- not in two or four years," Ziegenhorn said.

Pertinent address:

Benton, MO

Sikeston, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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