City, county consider joint 911 center
By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY ó The proposed design for the countyís new 911 communication center makes room for the city of Salisburyís dispatchers, but while the city agreed to the plan, it has not yet committed to consolidation.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners will consider the design at 3 p.m. Monday on the second floor of the J. Newton Cohen Sr. Rowan County Administration Building.
In a letter dated Sept. 20, County Manager Gary Page wrote to Doug Paris, Salisburyís interim city manager, that consolidation of the county and city 911 centers into one facility would be beneficial to both governments.
The county would get state funding to construct a $650,000 backup 911 center, which could be used if a catastrophic event disables the main facility.
The city would continue to manage its own telecommunications, Page wrote, and the county would not expect any compensation from Salisbury for the $170,000 cost to include office and dispatcher space for the city. He asked for a response within 30 days.
On Friday, Page said that Paris has asked that the county go ahead and plan to accommodate Salisbury staff, but Paris made no commitment.
The total cost of the planned facility is nearly $1.7 million. An additional $5.6 million would pay for 911 equipment purchases.
ěWe are paying for it out of existing 911 money and a quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters two years ago,î Page said Friday. ěThere will be no additional capital expense cost to the taxpayers.î
The proposed 8,513-square-foot building would be located on 4 acres of county-owned property on Old Concord Road, near the emergency management offices.
Page also wrote in the letter to Paris that he envisions a time when Salisbury would transfer its 10 telecommunicators and one supervisor to the county. He said the management consolidation would save the city $400,000 a year, and it would open up more funding opportunities for equipment and another building.
ěI realize this step would result in a sense of lost control, but we have a good working relationship with the other municipalities and I encourage you to contact them regarding their satisfaction with our service,î he wrote.
The county currently dispatches all emergency calls in the county ó including for the Salisbury Fire Department, other municipal and volunteer fire departments, police, EMS and rescue squad ó except for Salisbury Police Department calls.
In addition Monday, the board will consider offering a birthday benefit for county employees.
After Commissioner Jon Barber presented ideas for employee recognition programs Sept. 19, commissioners asked county staff to look into the cost of this option.
ěYou could argue it (costs) the tax payers either $41,665 or $125,000,î Page wrote in another memo.
One argument, Page wrote, is that a paid birthday off for full-time employees would cost the county the same as a furlough day would save ó calculated to be $125,000 in 2009.
Another argument is that the funds for county employees are already budgeted for the year, so it only would require more money for those in public safety.
The county would have to pay a replacement for EMS, 911 center or sheriffís office employees. They make up about a third of the countyís total staff, Page wrote, so giving them this benefit would cost about $41,665 (one-third of $125,000).
ěSince the other two-thirds of our employees are not public safety in nature, their absence from the job merely costs the public their access to that employee for one day out of the year,î he wrote.
Page suggested that if the board wants to reward employees for their good work over the past three years, it could give them three birthdays off in exchange for three furlough days taken in 2009. After three more years, the board could then decide whether or not to continue the benefit.
Also at Mondayís meeting, commissioners plan to:
Consider housing program policies that will allow the county to receive this yearís grants from the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency.
The 2011 Single Family Rehabilitation grant will provide $160,000 for substantial rehabilitation, and the 2011 Urgent Repair Program grant will provide $75,000 for minor, but critical, home repairs.
Consider budget amendments and board appointments.
Authorize the sale of 14 surplus vehicles from the sheriffís office, four from Rowan Transit Services, one from the parks department, one from animal control and one from the cooperative extension.
Approve a declaration of official intent to reimburse expenditures.
The county plans to advance its own funds and pay itself back up to $415,000 to buy a truck for animal control, an ambulance and SUV for emergency services and 10 vehicles for the sheriffís office.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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