911 Center fees: Porterdale outlines objections

PORTERDALE - The City Council has sent a 90-plus page response to the Covington Newton County 911 Center director and board of governors regarding a proposed contract requiring the city to pay for its police dispatch calls handled by the center.

The response, which includes a seven-page letter from Mayor Bobby Hamby and 11 attachments, outlines Porterdale's concerns about the contract and states that the city continues to desire a "mutually satisfactory resolution to the matter, negotiated in good faith, based upon relevant information."

Hamby states in the letter that the written response was sent after a request by the city to meet with representatives of the 911 Center was denied in April.

The 911 Center had asked the city to reach an agreement on the contract by April 15.

The contract, which extends for five years, would require Porterdale to pay for its percentage of police calls based on the center's annual budget less funds received from E-911 surcharges for the previous fiscal year. According to the 911 Center, Porterdale generates about 4 percent of total calls dispatched through the center, which would amount to about $46,000 in 2009.

In his letter, Hamby claims the budget period used to calculate the cost of operating the 911 Center and the figures used to calculate Porterdale's percentage of calls are not the same figures specified in the contract. These discrepancies, Hamby states, result in an overcharge of the city.

Hamby also questions basing Porterdale's payment on a budget rather than on actual expenditures.

"While Porterdale has been provided with a document reflecting the 2007 budget and 2007 actual expenditures, it appears that the budgeted amounts exceed the actual expenditures by 12 percent," Hamby wrote. "Porterdale has reservations about entering into a contract based upon proposed budget figures when it appears that proposed budget amounts may exceed the actual costs of providing the service by 12 percent."

In addition, Hamby requests clarification of certain budget items, including fund transfers and expenditures for systems development maintenance, liability insurance, training and travel expenses, and equipment maintenance, among others. Hamby also questions whether Porterdale will be required to help pay for capital expenditures for the 911 Center.

Since the 911 Center earns interest on its E-911 Surcharge Special Revenue Fund, Hamby asks if that will be taken into account when calculating Porterdale's share of the cost of operating the center.

Hamby also reiterates Porterdale's request for a voice on the 911 Center's board of governors, a request that was denied in March.

Mike Smith, director of the 911 Center, said the city and county are in the process of reviewing Porterdale's response.

"Obviously, the city and county wanted to have something in place prior to July 1, which is the beginning of the new budget cycle," Smith said. "We are going to review their response and their concerns and get back to them in a timely manner."

Currently, the 911 Center is funded by the city of Covington and Newton County. Smith said in January that the center has been shouldering the dispatch call expense for Porterdale and Oxford for years and could no longer continue to do so. Oxford's City Council agreed earlier this year to pay $18,282 for the fiscal year beginning July 1, which is its share of the cost of operating the 911 Center based on call volume. Oxford generates about 1.5 to 2 percent of total call volume, Smith said.

The annual budget for the 911 Center is about $2.3 million, with about $1.2 million coming in through surcharges, leaving about $1.1 million to be paid by the agencies that use the center's dispatch services.

Mansfield and Newborn police and fire protection are already handled by the county, so they are not being asked to contribute, Smith said.

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