Porterdale budget gets hit by fees
Dispatch charges add $46K

PORTERDALE - Public safety spending in Porterdale's 2009 budget will include fees for Police Department dispatching, amounting to $46,000 in new spending, according to City Manager Tom Fox.

Fox advised the council of the new expenditure at a work session Tuesday night at which council members began hashing through a draft of the 2009 budget.

"It comes at a bad time with the economic downturn, and we are having a budget shortfall, but it's got to be done," Fox said.

Mike Smith, Covington-Newton County 911 Center director, explained Wednesday that the 911 Center for years has provided dispatch and other services for Porterdale and Oxford police departments at no charge.

"As times are now, and this has been discussed well before the economy went bad, but the operation is such that the city and county can't continue to bear the full cost of this," Smith said.

The annual budget for the 911 Center comes in at $2.3 million, Smith said. 911 surcharges on all phones in the county pay for about $1 million of that. By law those fees can be used only for 911 services and cannot be applied to dispatch services, Smith said.

Under the proposed contracts with Porterdale and Oxford, each city will be required to pay for its percentage of the total dispatch volume handled by the 911 Center. For Oxford, that is 1.61 percent, which comes to $18,282 in fees. Porterdale's dispatch call volume is 4.02 percent of the total, which amounts to $45,649.

Smith said the towns can pay the dispatch fees in monthly installments.

He added that the new dispatch fees have nothing to do with the 911 Center's new radio network that allows for interoperability between public safety agencies.

Councilwoman Linda Finger requested that Fox look into the city's court fines and fees and make sure they are in line with other towns'. The fees, she said, might help offset the dispatch charges.

Alice Queen can be reached at alice.queen@rockdalecitizen.com.