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‘Hold up’ between Perry County and Tell City leaders making the future of dispatch services unclear

Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 6:16 PM CDT
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PERRY Co., Ind. (WFIE) -A disagreement between city and county officials on who should head up 911 dispatch.

It all comes down to PSAP.

It’s the public safety answering point. So the location where all of your 911 calls are answered.

In Perry County, Tell City Police Department has been the PSAP for decades.

The problem started once Tell City Police officials discovered what they call an unbalanced portion the county was paying for the dispatch services.

The Assistant Chief says Tell City was absorbing most of the cost. About more than $900,000, while the county was contributing around $184,000.

Since that came to light, a new financial agreement has come to terms.

But there’s still a disagreement with who will be considered the PSAP.

”We made it almost all the way through the whole interlocal agreement, it was ready to be signed. But there was one hurdle that couldn’t be crossed by two county commissioners and that is the PSAP. It was a one line sentence in the interlocal agreement that stated Tell City Police Department will be designated as the public safety answering point. They won’t allow that, they said Perry county is the PSAP, not Tell City” Dispatch Supervisor and Assistant Chief of Police, Roger Smith said.

County officials say it’s a little more complicated than it sounds.

”To name Tell City PSAP, the way I understand state statute, is that all of the money from the newly created PSAP and the 911 goes directly to Tell City. Which leaves nothing for the county to cover the cost of their portion of it,” President of County Commissioners, Tom Hauser said.

Commissioner Hauser says it’s not just the title of PSAP but what goes into the dispatch center.

”There are other very viable pieces too which is not entirely the dispatch services. It’s all the things that are provided to the dispatch center to be able to do that. Tell City owns the building, just renovated the furniture, the call center is under contract with the county, the radios belong to the county,” Hauser said.

City officials ask, why change a system that’s been in places for decades?

”What I would say to the commissioners, two of the three that’s in a disagreement were the PSAP is. Sign the interlocal agreement. Let’s move forward. It is what it is. We are a public safety answering point. Let’s make sure this dispatch center is staffed,” Smith said.

Staffing, that’s another problem the assistant chief says they’re facing as a new agreement is still up in the air.

”I have eight employees that their job is hinging on to commissioners threatening to take over the dispatch center because of one term in a interlocal agreement,” Smith said.

While solutions are looked for, one thing is certain on both sides.

”The previous contract didn’t have details spelled out. And maybe that’s some of the hold up. That we need this to be detailed. But the bottom line is, and I’ve talked to the mayor and he 100% agrees with me, that the last thing anyone wants, any disruption in 911 services. That is the ultimate goal,” Hauser said.

County officials say they hope it doesn’t get to this point, but if an agreement isn’t reached they could build a whole new dispatch center.

City officials say, because of the delay, eight employees’ jobs are hinging if the county takes over the dispatch center.

The next commissioner’s meeting will be Monday night, and pending any changes the PSAP will be discussed.

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