Kannapolis says no to unified 911 call center

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS ó For the foreseeable future, Kannapolis will maintain its own 911 call center at the Kannapolis Police Department.
That was the unanimous decision of the Kannapolis City Council after debates over emergency agencies’ response time and service quality at Monday night’s council meeting.
Earlier in the evening, Kannapolis Fire Chief Ernie Hiers presented the department’s five-year strategic plan.
The plan identified the department’s strengths ó among them, prompt response to calls, high level of training and dedicated personnel.
However, the department’s weaknesses include a lack of sufficient apparatus and inconsistent concentration of resources.
Council members voted unanimously to adopt the plan, which calls for placing new stations and resources where they’re most needed and increasing training and diversity levels.
They praised Hiers and the fire department but voiced concerns about the need for growth and improvement of services.
Councilman Roger Haas agreed the department’s problems could be alleviated with increased space. He also said many citizens question why fire trucks act as first responders at non-fire emergencies.
The reason, Hiers said, is there are more available fire personnel than Emergency Medical Service responders.
Councilman Richard Anderson said he was unhappy with the fact that residents of Kannapolis in Rowan County would otherwise have to wait 10 minutes or longer for an ambulance to arrive.
“We have an EMS station here on Dale Earnhardt Boulevard,” Anderson said.
And if Rowan County’s EMS is responding to calls elsewhere, Anderson said, “then the ambulance has to come all the way from Salisbury when we’ve got one sitting here.”
Anderson joined others in expressing desire for a reciprocal agreement whereby Cabarrus County EMS workers stationed in Kannapolis could respond within the city limits on the Rowan side.
Such an agreement would require discussion of costs and whether Cabarrus County money could be spent to respond in Rowan County. “It boils down to dollars and cents,” said Kannapolis City Manager Mike Legg.
In the meantime, Hiers said, “Our guys can keep you alive.”
Later, as part of Legg’s report to the council, Assistant City Manager Eddie Smith brought up Cabarrus County’s proposal to unite local emergency dispatch services.
First proposed last year, the new center was envisioned as part of the new Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Department complex in downtown Concord.
After months of discussion among city and county representatives, Smith said, the city of Concord pulled out, citing quality-of-service concerns.
Kannapolis Police Chief Woody Chavis presented council members with facts on the department’s response to calls during the past year.
The police department operates the 911 dispatch center for the city of Kannapolis.
Capt. Chuck Adams, speaking on behalf of the Kannapolis Police Department, said consolidation would cause personnel issues and would not lower costs.
“We were never able to reach a consensus about how this would be done effectively,” Adams said.
According to the department, a backup call center would still be needed locally in case of emergency, and staff who currently have a good rapport with local agencies might be replaced.
Following the discussion, Mayor Pro Tem Randy Cauthen moved that Kannapolis also withdraw from discussion of the proposal.
In other business, the council:
– Debated a proposal from Planning Director Ben Warren and the city’s Environmental Stewardship Commission to seek Tree City USA status from the National Arbor Day Foundation.
Although council members support the plan in principle, the requirement for a tree protection ordinance spurred debate over property owners’ rights.
Mayor Bob Misenheimer suggested the matter be taken up again after investigating similar ordinances in other cities. No action was taken.
– The council fixed a date of Feb. 23 for a public hearing on the voluntary annexation of 5.552 acres in the Western Growth Area.
– Council entered closed session to discuss a negotiating position on price and other material terms of real property acquisition, to consult with the city attorney and to discuss personnel matters.
Legg confirmed the board would discuss Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium during the closed session.