MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County 9-1-1 Board discussed plans on Wednesday to form a steering committee to keep emergency communications in the county in step with population growth, development and technological advancement.
“I’d like to get a group together to find out what is the best fit, the best plan for 9-1-1 all around,” 9-1-1/EMA Director Brian Hess told the board members gathered for Wednesday’s meeting.
Hess suggested a five-member steering committee to include a representative from law enforcement, and one from the fire service, as well as at least one citizen-at-large. He said he was open to suggestions regarding appointments to the committee.
Mayor Richard Mavis suggested Hess act as ex officio on the committee, to weigh in on the discussion as a non-voting member.
Mavis said he understood there were a number of issues to be discussed regarding the future direction of 9-1-1 in the county, and said he would like to see a diverse committee.
“It certainly would be advantageous to get as much broad thinking as possible,” Mavis said. “I think this is going to be a big issue.”
Mount Vernon Fire Chief Shawn Christy said he believed whatever preconceptions committee members may bring to the table, open discussion would lead to progress.
“Regardless of the thoughts and feelings going into it, the more you discuss the more you learn,” Christy said. “We are all open to new ideas, and I do think it’s possible that you can go in thinking something and come away thinking something else.”
“Do you envision the steering committee coming back and making a recommendation to this board,” 9-1-1 Board Chairwoman Teresa Bemiller asked Hess.
“Absolutely, it would ultimately be up to this board,” Hess answered.
“I’m open to any type of approach,” Hess told the board. “I think it’s in the best interest of Knox County to sit down and talk about this issue.”
In other business, the board heard a final report regarding the expenses involved in replacing the radio equipment at the county 9-1-1 dispatch center damaged by lightning earlier this summer.
Hess said CORSA, the county’s insurance company, paid $81,000 toward the replacement of the equipment, leaving the 9-1-1 board’s share of the expenses to be $41,399.73.
The board also approved 17 hours of payment at $30 an hour for a KCSO detective, for extra duty performed while the radio repair was going on during the past six weeks.
Knox County Sheriff David Barber said his office had absorbed 71 hours of the 88 after business hours that a detective was on the premises during the special detail.
This was done, according to Barber, to ensure evidence kept in the area near where the radio repair was happening, remained under the supervision of law enforcement at all times. The radio transmitter equipment is housed in a secure portion of the sheriff’s office that includes the evidence storage area.
“Normally, when radio service is here, there’s a detective in here, so it wasn’t that big of a deal,” Barber explained. The 88 hours were after normal operating hours for the sheriff’s office, late into the evening many nights.
The detective was paid at a special duty rate, Barber said, similar to deputies on special detail such as traffic control at sporting events.
Mount Vernon Police Chief Michael K. Merrilees said he had no problem voting to pay to cover the detective’s time, but he believed the bill should also be submitted to the insurance company as a cost from the lightning damage.
Hess said he agreed, and would submit the paperwork provided by the detective right away to see if it qualifies for reimbursement.
The board also approved an annual service contract with VASU Communications, for $13,549.48.