The 411 on 911
On July 22, Chris Lamb, Chief of EMS and Director of Operations proposed new software to improve dispatching services for Robertson County. The goal was to implement new software but Lamb got more than he bargained for. “I just want to go back to taking care of the people of Robertson County,” said Lamb in open court, “I don’t care about all the politics. I’m spending more time dealing with the rumors than helping people.”
Lamb was just one of many that had had their fill of rumors that swelled throughout the county regarding a possible consolidation of 911 services.
Judge Jan Roe addressed the court to outline what had transpired over the previous 30+ days regarding the Sheriff’s office, 911 dispatching and to quell any rumors. This would be the third time the Judge told the same story, in open court.
Judge Jan Roe’s idea:
1. Buy the new 911 dispatch software.
a. Priority Dispatch software recommended by Chris Lamb. The leader in 911 software technology. The software came recommended by Brazos County. Brazos County has been using this software for 5-6 years.
b. Priority Dispatch software provides updates, installation, site evaluations and training.
2. Move 911 from it’s current location at the Sheriff’s office to the lower floor of the new courthouse annex.
a. Rumor had it that the lower portion of the courthouse had water flooding issues. This is not true. The toilets backed up once when the City of Franklin back washed the water lines. It happened on a weekend and would not have happened if people had been in the annex at the time of the singular incident.
b. The lower basement was an ideal location due to the fact that it is wired for Emergency Operations. Once the historic courthouse is completed, the lower floor will only be accessed by law enforcement. All doors will be sealed with security keypads. This as a 911 dispatch would be an ideal location,
3. The sheriff would still maintain management control of 911.
a. This was never in doubt. Rumors flew, but the truth is, the Sheriff was always going to retain 911 as a department and the administrator for 911.
4. When or if a new jail would be built, move 911 from the lower floor of the annex to the new facility.
a. Though an entirely different topic, it is relevant here. The ideal location for 911 would be in a control room at a new law enforcement center. This is years away from happening, so to move it to the lower basement was a temporary fix from it’s current location within the sheriff’s office which can best be described as smelling of a sewer, cramped and chaotic when “things get going.”
5. Consolidate Hearne 911 with Robertson County 911, including the dispatchers from Hearne.
a. Rumor had that a secret meeting took place between Hearne Mayor Ruben Gomez and Judge Jan Roe. The two met, this is true, to discuss budgets. The question. “would a combined 911 serve Hearne better? If so, how much is Hearne spending on 911? Would Hearne contribute to a combined 911? In other words, was a combined 911 in the best interest of Robertson County and how do we do it?
b. Currently Hearne spends $250,000.00 annually on 911.
c. The “Deal” would have been that Hearne pay Robertson County $100,000.00 a year for combined 911 service. All Hearne employees would then move over to Robertson County (4 of them). The county makes money, the city saves money, and the service is better for everyone.
d. Community leaders will often meet in regards to budget concerns. Counties throughout the state of Texas have business arrangements with their cities. None of those meeting are required to be “public meetings.” With that said, the outcome or discussion from those meetings are public information and the Commissioner’s Court discussed this meeting in open court, and they did, several times in open court, for the public.
6. Provide training on the new software for all dispatchers to better serve the residents of Robertson County.
a. With the purchase of the new software, the company would provide top level training for all dispatchers.
b. The software gives medical instruction during a call, which means that if you call 911, the newly trained dispatcher would have medical instruction to save your life. In a rural area this is a big deal. Robertson County EMS is one of the best, but this is a large county and immediate medical attention is the difference between life and death.
c. Both Chris Lamb and Sheriff Yezak, Jan Roe and everyone involved agree, this is the software for Robertson County.
d. The problem is once installed, it takes a lot of effort to move it, as well as cost.
e. If installed at the current 911 it will have to move to the new law enforcement center, once approved and constructed in a couple of years. If installed in the basement level of the annex, it would stay there, or move to a new law enforcement center. Either way 911 looks as though it would move.
7. Cost to taxpayers = 1/2 of 1 person’s salary.
a. Due to insurance check, the county has the $85,000.00 to purchase the software. No new tax required.
b. The county currently employs 5 dispatchers.
c. The county has absorbed 4 1/2 employment positions. As taxpayers, these positions will dissolve with the new budget. The idea was to keep these positions budgeted and use them for the 4 Hearne dispatchers when the deal went through.
d. The software company recommends 10-12 employees. In Robertson County for argument sake, the Judge used 10. So the county needed to find just 1/2 of one persons salary and the deal could be done.
8. County revenue stream
a. $100,000.00 from the city of Hearne for dispatch services.
b. Voluntary contributions for 911 dispatching from Volunteer Fire Departments in Robertson County.
With the budget year closing fast, this idea is lost and can not be addressed for another year. “We can’t do it now, the proposed budget gets filled today, this is a future project now,” said Judge Roe.
“I just want everyone to stay open minded, let’s lose the politics and look into this,” said Hearne’s Mayor Ruben Gomez, “Anytime you can consolidate and make this a better service, we should all get on the same page.”
No action was taken on the subject with the exception of discussion to form a committee to study the issue.
Dennis Phillips / Publisher / Robertson County News