10/20/11 — County moves funds for 911

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County moves funds for 911

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 20, 2011 1:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners Tuesday morning approved a $1.9 million amendment to the county budget for debt service on the county's new communications system.

The total consists of 911 revenues and $953,423 in local matching funds. The county already has budgeted for its share of the cost.

During the agenda briefing Commissioner Steve Keen at first asked that the item be taken from the consent agenda and instead be discussed at a work session. Keen said he was under the impression from an article in the News-Argus that the amendment would fund the new 911 center the county plans to build.

"No. This is not for the center," County Manager Lee Smith said. "As I have told you I will get the bids back (on the center) and bring that to you and you have to approve it. That has not been done. This has to do with the debt of the communications system.

"This is only allowing us to move the money. This is a zero net effect to the budget. This is moving funds from the general fund allowing us to draw down the 50 percent monies from the state, the 911 funds. That is all it is. This is an accounting move. It does not fund the new center. That has not been approved. It is allowing us to draw down the 50 percent money that is the $953,423 we are drawing down from the state, but until I make the transfer I cannot draw it down."

The funds will pay for the backroom equipment that is already on order for the communications system, Smith said.

Keen said he had received calls from several people about the information in the article and used the issue to springboard onto other topics including the possibility of changing the board's meeting times.

"A lot of discussion goes on between 8 and 9 (agenda briefing)," he said. "I would encourage Wayne County citizens who want to know what is going on between 8 and 9 to come."

After 9 o'clock the meetings are broadcast live on TV and radio, he said.

"I guess the concern of mine is what I read in the newspaper is the agendas for our meetings to come on Tuesday," he said. "I receive (my agenda) on Thursday, sometimes Wednesday of what is going to happen the following Tuesday.

"The agendas are public and passed on to the local media. Sometimes the media takes and whether editorializes it or bends it or reports it exactly as is. This morning is a good example of this. A lot of calls to me have been as to why does the county want to spend so much money on a 911 center when we still have issues with the radio system?"

Keen said the radio system was approved the very "first day I sat here."

"I raised my hand to the affirmative listening to all of the reports that had been given that day believing that everything was top-notch -- that we had the cat's meow; that it was a bar setter; that we had the absolute radio system there was going to be," Keen said. "I bought into that and so did everybody else and the taxpayers of Wayne County. Three years later we still have issues."

Keen said that Smith, the fire chiefs and others have their "finger on the pulse" where the issue is concerned, but issues still remain with the new system.

He said no one knows how much money it will take to fix the system.

"I would like to encourage citizens that yes, we are on top of it, but another part of this article was that we may be afraid of losing the 911 funds and we need to draw down on these funds," he said.

Keen said he had called four of the county's five legislators.

"All four are saying to me there is no way," he said. "There has to be a huge change in government for that to happen. We can draw down on that and I voted this morning to draw down on that. I know that some of that was part of the budget which I did not agree on and voted no on the budget this year.

"We all have to be on the same page along with the citizens of this county and understanding what is going on is best understood in this room on TV on radio and not just newspaper. I would suggest that we either change our meetings from in the morning to in the evening to inform the citizens more as to what is going on in their county."

Keen then returned to an earlier discussion about the $45 fee charged to county residents who live outside of municipalities for use of the landfill and convenience sites. In prior years, people who paid a licensed hauler to carry off their garbage were exempt from the fee. Commissioners eliminated the exemption when they approved the budget in June.

Keen said he was told by people they did not know about it.

"That was handled in a work session," he said. "'Isn't that a closed session?' No it is not. We do not tape our work sessions. We should."

Smith said he had been questioned by some commissioners about the fee. He reminded the board that the fee reduction and elimination of the exemptions had been included in his budget message that he had read to commissioners at the time the budget was being considered.

Smith said he checked DVD recordings of the May and June and verified that he had discussed the fee changes at those regular board meetings.