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Mayor: County not living up to E-911 commitment

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
Dec. 19, 2000
Mayor John Robert Smith broke weeks of silence Monday with a claim Lauderdale County  not the City of Meridian  is responsible for the apparent shortfall in personnel plaguing the E-911 service.
Smith accused Lauderdale County supervisors of not "living up to their end of the deal" by failing to implement a surcharge on phone rates as they claimed they would do in order to make the E-911 Commission self sufficient.
Supervisors have stated they were considering raising surcharges up to $1 for residential lines and $2 per commercial line to make the commission self-reliant, but have yet to act on the matter.
Some supervisors have claimed the city has basically tried to pull out of the agreement the two had made back in 1997 by pulling five city dispatchers from the commission this year. Smith said the employees wanted to leave the commission on their own because they weren't happy with the working conditions.
The E-911 system currently functions with city and county dispatchers working together at the 14th Street location, but city workers remain under Civil Service and county dispatchers work at the will of Lauderdale supervisors.
Smith said the city had made a deal with its dispatchers that if they didn't like the working conditions they could be absorbed back into the city government with different jobs. Smith said he feels strongly about the commitment to each employee, but every time one leaves he has to replace the dispatcher by hiring another employee to fill the vacancy.
Meridian Chief Administrative Officer Ken Storms and Smith said they believe the commission could never properly be run until all E-911 workers are employees of the commission because there's too much disparity between workers.
Smith said he was tired of waiting for the county to act on the original agreement and tired of their excuses.
We've heard Just wait until after elections and we'll address it then,'" Smith said. "The time has come that they need to act, the only reason I've been taking hits on this is because they kept assuring me it would be passed. If they are serious about funding E-911 then pass the rate increases like they originally agreed."
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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