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L to r: City Manager Allen Poole, Councilwomen Betty Morrow and Phyllis Campbell and Councilman Jerome Jenkins

Clinton gets a bill for 911 service

(Clinton, KY) –You're sitting in a nice restaurant in a party of six. Five get up and leave. The last one out says, "Just pay 1/6 of the check."

No problem. How bad can it be?

You open the bill and your heart skips a beat. The bill is over 200% more than you spent last time you were here.

Now what?

That's the scenario that confronted the Clinton City Council this week. The bill for dispatch is check is a lot more than they bargained for when they began planning next year's budget a month ago. The bad news came by mail.

A letter from Hickman County Judge Greg Pruitt dated Friday April 4, 2014 asked the City of Clinton to pay the County $27,423.00 yearly toward the County's dispatch and 911 service. Pruitt’s letter, mailed to Mayor Tommy Kimbro at City Hall and to the home addresses of the five members of the Clinton City Council, arrived in time for the April City Council meeting – barely.

Services directly attributable to Clinton City Government are a one sixth portion of what dispatch does. According to the letter, “Our dispatch dispatches for Clinton Fire Department, Columbus Fire Department, the Hickman County Fire and Resque (sic) Squad, Hickman County Sheriff’s Department, and the Clinton Police Department.”

The Judge said that prior to the construction of the Hickman County Detention Center, “both the city and county were contributing $18,000 per year to our ambulance service, which was conducting our dispatch.”

After the Detention Center opened, dispatch was moved from the ambulance service to the jail facilities on Highway 51 north of Clinton. The City’s share of the cost of dispatch dropped after the move to $10,000 a year.

Pruitt’s letter said that “Fifteen years later you are now only paying $11,760.00.”

An enclosure with the Judge’s letter laid out costs of the dispatch service should it become a stand alone service should there be a closing of the Detention Center. The Judge’s estimated dispatch operated within Hickman County would cost the following:

Salaries $107,672
Fringe    $ 46,320
Phone    $   3,360
Utilities $    2,500 (estimated for the dispatch/service area)
Training $   4,691 (cost to train 1 dispatcher per year)
     
Total     $164,543

The Judge’s letter didn’t make it onto the agenda of the meeting. When a council member brought the letter up under the “New Business” segment of the meeting, Mayor Kimbro said he had just seen it. He was not prepared to go into a lengthy discussion of its contents.

The Mayor recommended that the Council table the request pending more information. He hastily assured the press present that the City supports the dispatch service. But he isn't ready to lay out a 200% increase for 911 without more information.

“We don't need a knee jerk reaction.” He said. “Yes. We will participate on our fair share. Just not now.”

The fate of the Hickman County Detention Center became the subject of public discussion recently when an open letter appeared in the Hickman County Times decrying the closing of the facility and moving of dispatch and 911 services out of Hickman County. The facility houses the dispatch center. The County’s share of the jail has increased because fewer state prisoners are being housed.

Hickman County’s ambulance service is located on James Phillips Drive in Clinton. The ambulance service is being supported at least in part by Hickman County Fiscal Court.

In an interview with the Paducah Sun, Judge Pruitt said "Because one of the county's retirement homes closed, the ambulance service has been short on funding. Hickman County is now giving $10,000 per month to the service."

Judge Greg Pruitt will leave office at the end of December, 2014. Three candidates for county judge executive, current Jailer Chad Frizzell, Kenny Wilson, former Hickman County School Superintendent and Joey McGee, a local contractor, are running in the Democratic Primary in May.

Frizzell is the only candidate so far to publicly express an opinion. Wilson had not responded to our request at this writing and McGee has not been reached for comment.

In an email to West Kentucky Journal,  Frizzell wrote of the facility he manages:

“Quite frankly, our county isn’t large enough population-wise to support a full-service jail. The good news is that means that we have a relatively low violent crime rate in Hickman County. The tragic news is that if the fiscal court elects to close, it will affect at least 19 families that are represented by a county employee or contract employee. In a county our size, we have to realize that 19 jobs are enough to impact the local economy, not to mention the payroll taxes gained by the city and county governments.” (Click on "More" for Frizzell’s complete statement.)

Councilwoman Phyllis Campbell wondered aloud what emergency was spurring the County Judge Executive to move so quickly.

No one had an answer for her. Until there is an answer, the Clinton City Council will keep doing what it's doing and paying what it's paying.

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