EMA, 911 plan to share personnel, costs

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Pike County EMA and Pike County 911 are considering a merger to share costs and personnel between the two departments.

Pike County 911 Director Chris Dozier said the two entities would be sharing costs in four key areas to make both departments.

“There are four cost-share items that 911 will bill the EMA for: personnel, vehicles, technology and the facility,” Dozier said.

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Dozier is still setting up meetings with stakeholders to finalize the proposal for the commission, but the current pitch is for three full-time employees and one part-time worker that could be utilized by both the EMA and 911. The EMA has typically had a full-time director and part-time staffer and the 911 office has two full-time employees.

By merging the two offices, the current 911 Board would become the Emergency Management and Communications Board (EMA-911 Board).

“Those would all be the new EMA-911 Board’s employees,” Dozier said. “We would be paying the salaries and EMA would be paying the management fees to reimburse 911 for its portion.”

Dozier said the EMA/911 Board will give representatives from local law enforcement, the commission and Troy University an opportunity to steer the agency in a direction that is best for all involved.

“We already have Troy, Brundidge, the volunteer firefighters association and sheriff’s department represented,” Dozier said. “And the two at-large spots we are looking at designating one for the commission itself and one for the university.”

Although the 911 Board is not governed by the commission, the commission appoints the board members, who serve a four-year term without the possibility of removal.

Under the proposed new structure, the four employees would handle both 911 and EMA tasks.

“A lot of people realize that the reason 911 works so well here is because we have actual responders on the board that can make the decision of how 911 needs to respond and how it needs to work here,” Dozier said. “We’re still going to coordinate with the state and everyone we need to, but we’re putting an emphasis on local people.”

Currently, the 911 office is funded by a state rate charged on bills for wireless and landline phones, while the EMA is funded primarily by the county commission.

Dozier said that the merger would allow cost-sharing only for the specified items, and each agency would maintain a separate budget.

“If this merger goes through, I can’t take EMA funding and pay a 911 bill, and I can’t take 911 funding to pay an EMA bill,” Dozier said.

Instead, the EMA-911 Board would pay the payroll and facility expenses and purchase vehicles and technology, with the EMA reimbursing a portion of the costs.

Dozier and Interim EMA Director Herb Reeves presented a $215,000 EMA budget to the commission for the upcoming fiscal year, but Dozier said other stakeholders could assist in funding the agency.

Dozier and Reeves are setting up conversations with stakeholders now to discuss the budget with them. The stakeholders include the City of Troy, City of Brundidge, Troy University, County Commission, Goshen and Banks.

Although the $215,000 is an increase from the county’s $140,000 allocation to the department last year, Dozier expects a cost-savings considering the additional employees.

“If they hired four new people, it would be much more than what we’re presenting,” Dozier said. “They only have to pay half the cost.”

Dozier said any proposal will contain options for commissioners.

“We still want to give the commission the ability to say ‘We don’t agree with this’ and back out,” Dozier said. “The management agreement is presented alongside budget and lays out in detail what 911 is going to provide to EMA for those costs … If something changes, we have a way for everybody to back out at any time, with notice.”

Dozier said he does not expect to have a presentation at the commission’s meeting Monday, but he will be meeting with stakeholders next week to bring back more information for the commission soon.