Danville, Boyle close to compromise on 911 service
Published 8:06 am Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Danville and Boyle County are close to finalizing an agreement that would solidify how 911 dispatch service operates in the county.
The two governments have been going back and forth over 911 issues for the better part of a year, with the Boyle County Fiscal Court at one point voting to stop using Danville’s emergency call center and switch to Bluegrass 911 in Garrard County instead.
That move never materialized however, as the county magistrates voted in September to reverse course and try to work things out with Danville.
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That decision signaled the start of renewed negotiations amongst Danville City Manager Ron Scott, Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney, Danville City Attorney Stephen Dexter and Boyle County Attorney Lynne Dean, according to Dexter and Dean.
Dexter said he and Dean put the final touches on a proposed service agreement Monday afternoon, less than two hours before the Monday-night Danville City Commission meeting was set to begin.
The service agreement was presented to the commission, which voted unanimously to approve it. The same agreement was presented to Boyle County magistrates Tuesday morning, but they declined to vote on it then, instead opting to take some time to review and hold a special called meeting Thursday for possible approval.
“I come before you tonight presenting an opportunity to resolve what has been an issue for over a decade,” Dexter told city commissioners Monday night. “… The last several months have involved good-faith, ongoing, productive negotiations and I am honored to present to you tonight what I would consider a final draft … by which the county and city have compromised to think how best to structure the 911 center.”
The main points of the proposed agreement addressed by Dexter are:
• Boyle County would immediately transfer more than $700,000 in 911-earmarked funds it is holding to Danville and, in the future, transfer 911-earmarked revenues it receives to the city quarterly.
• The city and county would enter into a written, four-year agreement under which Danville would provide 911 services to the county like a vendor and Boyle County would pay for those services based on what percentage of the total county population is outside of Danville City Limits.
• An “advisory committee” would be formed that would look at 911 budgets, consider grievances, look at 911 procedures and more; the committee would have representatives from every emergency services agency using the Danville call center and no members of the Danville City Commission or the Boyle County Fiscal Court. The advisory committee would include the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office, Boyle County EMS, Boyle County Fire Protection District, Danville Police Department and Danville Fire Department.
• Besides the county, three other partners — Junction City, Perryville and the Boyle County Fire Protection District — would pay Danville a modest amount toward the 911 budget. For a city like Perryville with fewer than 1,000 residents, the annual cost would be a flat fee of $750; for a city like Junction City with more than 1,000 but fewer than 2,500 residents, the annual fee would be $7,000. Any government with more than 2,500 residents being served would pay based on its percentage of the population. And the fire district would pay $500 annually in exchange for allowing the city to continue using its training facility.
“This clarifies a host of material issues that have come to a head over the past year, but have been the subject of long negotiations for at least five years, but have been problematic for more than a decade,” Dexter said. “… We negotiated extensively with the county judge-executive and the county attorney to resolve their concerns.”
Mayor Mike Perros said he likes the idea of creating a grievance form so complaints can be put in writing and dealt with instead of going through “back channels.” He said he also likes the creation of the advisory committee, which the proposed agreement states would meet at least every three months.
“I would encourage the advisory committee, initially, let’s start on a monthly basis. That’s their call, but that would be my recommendation,” he said. “Start on a monthly basis and make sure everything is working to everybody’s satisfaction and then go to quarterly.”
Commissioner Kevin Caudill asked Dexter to spell out the compromises Danville made in the proposed agreement.
Dexter said he would have preferred a 10-year agreement “so as this would not resurface at a shorter duration.”
“I would have preferred a longer duration to allow multiple commissions and multiple courts to allow it to be successful,” he said.
But the county wanted a “governing board” instead of an advisory board and didn’t want to be locked in for 10 years.
“My point was we had never had any type of advisory or governing board. So let’s let the advisory committee have a chance, to see if it works, and if it heals the tensions that have been festering,” Dexter said. “So in order to accommodate my request for an advisory committee as opposed to a governing board, we shortened the duration at the county’s request to see if it’s successful. And I think that’s reasonable.”
Dexter said 911 service in Boyle County has always been provided through verbal agreements and “handshakes.” This would be the first time inter-governmental 911 policies are ever put into writing.
“The (fiscal) court is going to consider this document tomorrow,” Dexter said Monday night. “I am hopeful that they will receive it as you do and pass it so we can put this issue to rest by the end of this year — or by the end of the week, rather.”
The fiscal court did not approve the agreement Tuesday morning, but agreed to meet again Thursday at 10 a.m. for possible approval.
County Attorney Dean presented the proposed agreement to magistrates, explaining that while she helped draft the document, it’s not up to her to decide if it should be approved as it stands.
“I’m not a decision-maker — that’s what you guys are for,” she said. “So in terms of substantive things, that’s for you all to decide.”
Dean said the very first draft agreement presented by the city was essentially a “dream agreement” written exactly how Danville wanted it. Since then, negotiations led to compromises.
“Is this a perfect agreement? No, but — it’s not perfect, but I feel like we made some concessions, the city made some concessions and we really gave our best effort to present to you a solid agreement,” she said. “There may be things you disagree with.”
Magistrate Jack Hendricks said he didn’t want to vote on the proposed agreement Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get a copy of this until 8 o’clock this morning. I hope — in fact I insist: We’re not going to look at a vote today I don’t think. We’ve got to digest this, we’ve got to talk about it,” Hendricks said. “There’s two or three things in here that I still don’t agree with, that we need to change.”
Hendricks said he hears questions from the public frequently about why the fiscal court is delaying a solution to the 911 issue — that’s a misunderstanding of what’s going on.
“We’re not trying to delay this. We’re not trying to stop it,” he said. “We’re trying to move along but do it legally.”
Hendricks said in his mind, there’s still a problem with “just writing a check” to Danville for the 911-earmarked funds that the county is holding. Boyle County Treasurer Mary Conley has maintained that to disperse the earmarked funds legally, they must be given out as reimbursements for approved expenses, not handed over in bulk, or she could get in serious trouble with auditors.
Hendricks said Dean told him on Monday that if the fiscal court had voted to write a check for all the funds to Danville, she would have advised against it because it would be against the law.
Dean said the city and county agree the earmarked funds should be spent legally. “Wholeheartedly,” affirmed Dexter, who attended the fiscal court meeting.
Conley said the proposed agreement doesn’t do enough to guarantee that she can go to bed at night and know she can prove every dollar of the funds was spent legally.
“The fiscal court will be audited — when they walk through the door, they’re going to see that fund and they’re going to say, ‘I need to see the documentation that supports those lump sum payments,” Conley said. “The city says that they’re going to be audited and that’s going to be complied with, but we have to remember, too, that the auditor of public accounts will be walking in here and doing the same thing.”
Dexter said the city’s understanding of the issue is “different” than what Conley argued.
“It is our understanding, based on where agreements exist like this in other communities, that the fiscal agent, being the county, is not audited for those purposes,” he said.
Dexter said the city has never misspent 911 funds and never will — and it will hold the county harmless in the event that something is misspent in the future.
Dexter also noted that while the fiscal court only recently received the most recent draft of the agreement, its members have had a similar document available to review for around two months. All the changes in the newest version are either “favorable” to the county’s position or “not unfavorable,” he said.
Magistrate Phil Sammons said “everybody’s wore out” debating the 911 issues.
“We’ve got people upset in the city, we’ve got people upset in the county because we’re not coming together. And I don’t like that,” Sammons said.
Sammons asked Dean if she “feels OK with this” agreement.
“Yes — with the caveat: Is it perfect? No, it’s not,” Dean said.
Conley questioned again if the agreement really protects the treasurer’s office. She said it would be “simple” to change the agreement to create a reimbursement program.
“All I’m asking for is just a simple … reimbursement agreement that allows this office to feel good when they go home at night that they’ve done the right thing and that they know where that money has been spent,” Conley said.
Dexter said he and Dean attempted to address Conley’s concern by stating in the agreement that funds would be “transferred for reimbursement.”
Judge-Executive Harold McKinney said he would talk with Conley and come up with some language that could put her at ease and present it to Dexter prior to a special called meeting Thursday.
McKinney said like Hendricks, he was not ready to vote on the agreement Tuesday.
McKinney and Hendricks both said they would have preferred a governing board with more control over the 911 call center instead of an advisory committee, but they were OK with the advisory committee.
“I can live with that,” Hendricks said.
Hendricks said he believes the negotiations have brought the city and county closer to a resolution than ever before. McKinney expressed similar hopefulness.
“We’re exactly where I hoped we would be at the end of this meeting,” he said.
IF YOU GO
The Boyle County Fiscal Court will hold a special called meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday for possible approval of a 911 service agreement with the City of Danville.
EMD service included in proposed service agreement
By BEN KLEPPINGER
As part of the proposed 911 service agreement between Danville and the other governments in Boyle County, the city would promise to implement “emergency medical dispatch” services within a relatively short time period. But it won’t happen quite as soon as City Manager Ron Scott said it would in August.
Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney said the proposed agreement states EMD services would begin on “Jan. 1 or as soon as practically possible thereafter.”
Danville City Attorney Stephen Dexter said because providing EMD has been “elevated as a concern,” the city made a “huge change” in its plans to implement the service very quickly, and updated the language of the proposed agreement.
Previously, there had been no date for EMD service listed — a previous draft read that Danville “will continue to investigate how to implement emergency medical dispatching services as soon as practically possible.”
EMD means dispatchers can provide instructions to callers on medical procedures such as CPR that can help people who are having medical emergencies. Danville does not currently provide EMD; every other surrounding dispatch center does, according to Dr. Eric Guerrant, ER chief at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center.
Guerrant first asked Danville City Commission to add EMD services in April, pointing to dismal survival rates in Boyle County for people who suffer cardiac arrests outside of a hospital.
Danville initially budgeted to implement EMD services this fiscal year. But in late June, under the gun to pass a budget and facing vocal opposition to a pair of tax increases, the commission voted to cut EMD from the current budget and shave a tenth of a percent off a payroll tax increase.
After Guerrant came to The Advocate-Messenger in August with two 911 recordings to demonstrate cases where he believed EMD would have benefited people having medical emergencies, Scott told city commissioners the addition of EMD was back on the table for 2017. Scott said Danville had cleared several hurdles to implementing EMD service and planned to have dispatchers providing the service before Dec. 31.