MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County 9-1-1 Planning Committee held a public hearing Monday afternoon, inviting public comment regarding the proposed changes to the county’s 9-1-1 Implementation Plan. The plan has been reopened for the first time in 15 years.
Before approving the plan, committee members Richard Mavis and Allen Stockberger discussed some of the points with those present.
College Township Trustee Doug McLarnan, who served on the Technical Advisory Board which made the changes to the original plan, said the plan does not address his concern with the overall management structure of the 9-1-1 dispatch centers at the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and the Mount Vernon Police Department.
McLarnan pointed to what he called an “awkward management structure” and the high rate of turnover among 9-1-1 dispatchers at both centers as being issues that need addressed.
“I think one of the problems I have with the 9-1-1 system is the supervisory situation,” McLarnan said.
Mavis told the group that Knox County Sheriff David Barber is the onsite supervisor at the county dispatch center, and MVPD Chief Mike Merilees supervises day-to-day operations at the city dispatch center.
McLarnan said he believed the chain of command should lead to the 9-1-1 coordinator’s position. He said that although he agreed law enforcement supervisors should have input into the supervision of dispatchers because the dispatchers perform other tasks for the sheriff and MVPD, he believes the current management system is not working the most effective way.
“There is no direct chain of command,” McLarnan said. He said the high turnover indicated a great deal of dissatisfaction with how the system is being managed.
“I don’t think anybody would argue that there’s some glitches in the overall management with the dispatchers,” Mavis said.
“Ultimately, you’re looking for a professional, accountable dispatch service,” McLarnan said.
Interim EMA Director and 9-1-1 Coordinator Brian Hess invited McLarnan to the next 9-1-1 Board meeting April 8, to share his concerns.
Hess said he plans to address the situation at that meeting, and is working on interpreting the Standard Operating Guidelines of the dispatch centers.
Mavis suggested the language in the revised plan be amended regarding the approval of large expenditures by the 9-1-1 Board.
“I think there would be some prudence in requiring a two-thirds majority of the board for expenditures over a certain amount,” Mavis said.
Using the board’s recent purchase of CAD software for over $480,000 as an example, Mavis said he felt seven of 10 board members should be required to approve such large outlays of money.
Knox County Assistant Prosecutor Chip McConville added new language to the plan requiring that seven of 10 board members approve any expenditures over $10,000.
Stockberger and Mavis voted to accept the new plan as amended.
Before it is adopted, the plan will need to receive the approval of the Knox County Commissioners and legislative bodies within the county representing at least 60 percent of the county population.
The revised 9-1-1 plan must be approved in the next 60 days.