Porterdale: 911 dispute resolved

COVINGTON - The Board of Commissioners approved a contract with the city of Porterdale for 911 dispatch services Tuesday night, ending a months-long dispute.

All sides said they are relieved the contentious issue has been resolved.

"I'm glad we finally got the situation taken care of and put it to bed," said Commissioner Tim Fleming, who represents Porterdale on the BOC. "I'm glad we went about it in a diplomatic way to draft an agreement that all parties could live with. Everybody got a little bit of what they wanted."

Porterdale Mayor Bobby Hamby agreed.

"I'm glad that now we can move on to other things that need to be taken care of," he said Wednesday.

The Covington City Council approved the contract Monday night, where Mayor Kim Carter also said she was happy to bring the issue to a close.

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.

"I'm glad we're through with this and ready to move on. We're looking forward to continuing to provide a high level of service to the cities of Porterdale and Oxford," said 911 Director Mike Smith, who added that officials with both cities will be notified of estimated fees before January so they can budget accordingly.

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

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, 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 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.

Oxford has already paid about $18,000 for its share of dispatch services, but now that final data on calls generated by the cities is in, that fee will be reduced, Smith said. Oxford city officials have requested a credit to next year's bill rather than a refund, he said.

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, Smith said.

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.