EMA-911 merger still in discussion by stakeholders

Published 10:32 pm Thursday, October 4, 2018

A proposed EMA-911 merger is still being discussed by stakeholders after the county approved to level fund the EMA at $75,000 for the fiscal year that began Monday.

For now, the money is funding EMA to continue running as usual until an agreement can be reached or stakeholders decide the proposal is not feasible as presented.

Chris Dozier, director of Pike County 911, said stakeholders would need to invest approximately $170,000 this year toward the agency, leaving about $95,000 after the county commitment for other stakeholders to commit to.

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“That was after we went back and took out everything that was not a necessity,” Dozier said. “We were asked to see what we could take off and we got it down to that number. We know what the county can put towards it; we’re waiting to see what the others can put towards it and whether it can meet the number that we need.”

The stakeholders include the cities of Troy and Brundidge, the towns of Goshen and Banks, and Troy University. Officials with Troy and Goshen said they are still in conversations about whether to commit funding and how it would be split.

In the past, the county commission has allocated approximately $75,000 each year to the agency with the City of Troy appropriating $10,000 annually and Brundidge giving $1,200.

Dozier said the budget splits the remaining $95,000 between stakeholders of Troy, Brundidge, Banks, Goshen and Troy University. There is also the Emergency Management Performance Grant that typically brings $30,000 in revenue to cover some of those expenses, although there’s no guarantee that the grant will be awarded in any given year.

The $75,000 that the county has spent annually on the agency also excludes the expenses covered by grants, meaning the agency had typically operated with expenditures of up to $105,000.

Dozier said the biggest increase in costs is personnel, with three full-time employees planned to be shared by both offices.

“You need more people, more warm bodies period,” Dozier said. “It’s impossible for one person to be in two places at once. When something happens of a nature that EMA is needed – a tornado does not touch down at one point. There’s not one point of damage and that’s it; it has a path. So while you’re doing damage assessments, you also have to be reporting to various agencies what type of damage we’re looking at and finding resources available for Pike County.”

Dozier said the merger is not structured to save money, but to save reduce the increased costs of adding more people.

“It’s going to cost more than it did under the previous setup because you’re getting more people,” Dozier said. “You’re going from one person at EMA’s disposal to three people at EMA’s disposal when needed. The merger going to be less expensive than if the county hired three people on its own for EMA. 911 is taking on more expenses, but less than if they did it on their own. It’s a cost savings, not saving money from what was previously being spent.”

Dozier said there were other added expenses that had to be factored in such as insurance, which was not in the EMA budget but was shared between county departments. The proposed new facility is also larger and would need some additional money allocated for maintenance.

County Administrator McKenzie Wilson said the county commission’s vote to level-fund the agency did not necessarily take into account the proposed merger, but said the $75,000 is what the county can afford to pay into a combined EMA-911 if stakeholders decide to move forward with the merger. “We don’t have the money to do a whole lot more,” Wilson said.

Dozier said the main purpose of combining the offices, in addition to the increased personnel for both agencies, is to have the 911 Board or a board of similar composition directing the agency.

“You would have input coming directly from emergency services department heads,” Dozier said. “That’s where the idea originated.”