Porterdale: City OKs 911 deal

COVINGTON - The Covington City Council approved a contract with the city of Porterdale for 911 dispatch services Monday night.

Now the only hurdle left is approval by the county, and the contentious issue will be put to rest following months of negotiations and disagreements.

Porterdale will pay a monthly fee of $2,060.67 for the balance of calendar year 2009. The monthly fee will be recalculated in January 2010 based on calls generated for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009.

The city of Porterdale approved the contract earlier this month, and has already made the first payment, Covington City Manager Steve Horton said.

"We're glad to finally come to a closure on this," Mayor Kim Carter said.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners was expected to vote on the contract Tuesday night.

Porterdale Mayor Bobby Hamby previously told the Citizen that city council members are not completely satisfied with the contract, but most felt it was time to settle the matter. The contract was drawn up by attorneys representing Porterdale, Covington and Newton County last week, Hamby said, and includes some provisions that were important to Porterdale, while others were excluded.

The contract provides for Porterdale to have representation on the 911 Center Board of Directors; however, it requires Porterdale to pay for 100 percent of 911 dispatch calls originating in the town rather than just the percentage generated by the Police Department.

"We still don't think that's right," Hamby said. "It's not fair to our citizens because there should be a baseline. If a citizen out in the county calls 911 ... and they send a deputy out there, it is covered under the 911 surcharge and the county tax. Our argument is that our citizens should receive that same service," since they also pay the 911 surcharge and county millage rate.

The contract approved by Covington on Monday night is the latest revision in a string of contracts approved by one side and rejected by the other.

The 911 Center first proposed a contract for dispatching services to Porterdale in December. Porterdale delayed signing the agreement and, following negotiations with Covington and Newton County, approved an interim contract in June. That contract was rejected by the city of Covington, which then approved its own revised edition of the contract.

Initially, Porterdale's annual fee was about $46,000. It will now be roughly $24,000.

The 911 Center is jointly funded by Newton County and the city of Covington. Until this year, the city and county shouldered the full cost of operating the center, and E-911 Director Mike Smith has said they can no longer afford to do so.

Oxford, which also has a police department, has already signed a contract to pay for its proportional share of 911 calls dispatched through the center. Mansfield and Newborn do not operate police departments and 911 calls originating in those towns are covered by the county.

Executive Editor Alice Queen contributed to this story.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.