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Unicoi 911 board reaches funding agreement with governments

Staff Report • Aug 3, 2013 at 8:04 AM

ERWIN — After months of discussion, the Unicoi County Emergency Communications District Board has a new interlocal agreement in place.

During the board’s Friday afternoon meeting, Board Chairman Bill Hensley said an emergency communications interlocal agreement between Unicoi County and the towns of Erwin and Unicoi had been reached. Through this agreement, the town of Unicoi will contribute $7,500 to the Emergency Communications District Board, the town of Erwin would contribute around $35,000 and the county would contribute funding for half of the county’s emergency dispatchers’ salaries and benefits.

The development of an interlocal agreement was recommended by the state Emergency Communications Board after the agency classified the county’s 911 Service as being “at risk” of becoming financially distressed due to several years of “negative change” in the service’s net assets.

In the months after this, the county’s Emergency Communications District Board began discussing funding formulas for the interlocal agreement. However, the town of Unicoi was not ready to commit to a specific annual contribution.

Town of Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch, who was not present at Friday’s meeting, previously said the town was not trying to “duck out” of contributing to the county’s 911 board, but he said he wanted to make sure the town was paying its fair share.

Hensley said he was pleased to receive word that the town of Unicoi would contribute $7,500.

"We don’t have anything to worry about,” Hensley said. “Things are running smoothly. I’m happy they’re giving us a $7,500 appropriation, and that is consistent with my thinking that what we do for them, that would about equal out.”

With the newly forged agreement in place, Hensley said bylaws would need to be developed for the board, and he expects these to be drawn up soon.

In other business, Hensley asked members of the board to compare the experience and salaries of the county’s emergency dispatch employees to the salaries of employees in the Unicoi County Courthouse to see if raises are warranted for some of the dispatchers.

Hensley also said in previous years, the county commission has been going over the county’s 911 budget and approving it. He said he would like to see this change.

“That is out of kilter,” Hensley said. “That not supposed to happen. That’s not going to happen.”

Instead, Hensley said he would like to see the 911 board, which is a separate entity, approve its own budget and provide information to the commission. He also said it should be up to the board to give dispatchers pay raises.

Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch said because the county funds half of the dispatchers’ salaries and all of their benefits, the Unicoi County Commission should have some input.

“We can’t let this board give these people some step increases and the county commission cut it,” Hensley said. “I’ll call the state up here before I’ll let that happen.”

The board will meet again Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the conference room of the county courthouse to further discuss the matter of dispatcher raises.

The board also elected officers for upcoming year. Hensley was reelected chairman, Unicoi County Emergency Management Director Ed Herndon was elected vice-chairman and Erwin Town Recorder Randy Trivette was elected treasurer.

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