Boyle emergency services leaders give their wish lists for 2019

Published 3:01 pm Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The fun and chaotic holidays are over, now it’s time to get down to business. As the new year rings in, several policy-makers and officials with Boyle County and the City of Danville spoke candidly about what they foresee as the big headlines of 2019.

Boyle Sheriff’s Office

Some spoke of projects they anticipate being complete; others of upcoming initiatives and the challenges to overcome in order to get things done. But “you don’t know what challenges in emergency services will face you every new year,” Sheriff Derek Robbins said.

The heroin and opiate epidemic caught everyone off guard, he said.

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“Historically, if you get caught with drugs, you go to jail, you bond out and get sentenced,” Robbins said. But then, the epidemic hit, creating quite a balancing act for officers.

“Now, we’re trying to figure out ways to help people who are addicted. It kind of puts us in the middle; we have to enforce the laws, but we have to be sympathetic to people’s needs, too.”

Robbins said the definition of “victim” has changed.

“The victims of crimes aren’t thought of as much anymore because we’re worried about helping people who are victims of drugs,” he says.

That balancing act deputies must now maintain is a huge challenge, he said.

Robbins admits he doesn’t have the answer. “It’s a trial by fire kind of thing. What does the public expect from us? And we try to do what we can to meet those needs.”

Robbins said the sheriff’s office is “in as good of shape as we’ve been in.” But the office is growing so much, he said deputies have to prioritize a lot more now.

“We’ve got four school resource officers in the schools; you’ve got shift patrol; a large courthouse security force now that’s implemented at the door … Our funding hasn’t changed, but our personnel has grown exponentially,” he said, noting that in addition, “call volumes continue to increase.”

Robbins said the Kentucky Sheriff’s Association will be conducting a study of sorts to compare Boyle’s fee schedules with other counties. For instance, he said it’s $5 for the sheriff’s office to do vehicle inspections on cars purchased out of state — and it’s been that way for about 20 years.

“We’ve quadrupled in size since some of the fees were set, and our call volume has probably increased five-times over, but the fees haven’t changed.”

Robbins said what most probably don’t realize about the sheriff’s office is it will start out Jan. 1 with “zero money.”

“We must borrow from the state until we start generating fees,” from papers being served, such as subpoenas, warrants and civil suits, which number up around 2,000 a year. The sheriff’s office also gets commissions from taxes the office collects. And it gets some revenue from fingerprinting and issuing concealed carry permits. 

One goal Robbins has for the new year is to have a sit-down with Danville Schools, which has been collecting its own taxes instead of using the sheriff’s office for the last 15 years or so. That decision was made before Robbins was sheriff, so he’s not sure what led to it.

“If they can save money — they’re doing everything they can to make the tax-dollar go as far as they can. We’ve never sat down and looked at numbers to see what it can do to make it cost-effective. They are fully within their rights to do that, but I’d like to talk to them about setting something up that’s a win-win for both of us.”

Robbins said the office’s salary expenses will cap out around $200,000 in 2019, partly due to the SRO positions not being budgeted in. “I think we will be OK, but it will be whole lot tighter than it was last year.”

Danville Police Department

“Definitely staffing is one of the most important things about the year ahead,” Danville Police Chief Tony Gray said.

Gray said even though the department has three retirements coming, it’s been fortunate enough to hire in some certified officers.

“And we’ve been fortunate to have good hiring processes in place, keeping our fingers crossed on that. I feel like staffing will finally stabilize,” Gray said. “If I’m going to cross my fingers and toes, and my hands in the prayer motion, that’s what I hope the biggest thing 2019 brings.”

There are several other things going on. Gray said a renovation is being done to the department’s outdoor range, on Gun Range Road off Lexington Avenue.

“We’ll update it, have electric run out there so, in the future, we can have moving targets,” he said. “… Right now it’s a block building. So that’s exciting.”

And the new 911 center is still in the process of getting up and running in its new location in the basement of city hall. One certified dispatcher was recently hired, with plans to hopefully hire more in the future.

Gray said he hopes to “get all the bugs and kinks out of that move. Fine-tune the upgrades down there, with a new software system, phone system …”

When all the bells and whistles are working, officers and EMS will be able to access their own dispatch logs from the new CAD system.

“It’s going to be a whole lot more efficient for the various emergency services groups; they’ll be able to get info off of their mobile data computers when it’s all done.”

Gray said the logistics in such an undertaking have been pretty massive. A new radio system, implementation of emergency medical dispatch “and scheduling all the different technicians from different vendors” has all amounted to an exercise in patience.

As far as battling the drug epidemic, Gray said, “That goes back to staffing. We can’t be effective on that front if we’re not staffed to the gills.”

He said drug prevention and control takes additional resources.

“We’re hoping we can be more effective on that end when we become fully staffed.”

Gray said other things to look forward to are the return of the citizen academy, an offering the police department hasn’t been able to extend in some time.

“That’s definitely a goal for the fall. In fact, Assistant Chief (Glenn) Doan has already started working on some of it.”

Although three officers are set for retirement in March, there are two new officers in the academy, Gray said. They should graduate at the same time. In the past, the department has had to wait sometimes as much as a year to get a new grad in.

“Looks like we’re making up those gaps, we’re getting ahead,” Gray said. But he admits he’s hesitant. “We’ve got to get through this summer and stay healthy staffing-wise … On paper, it looks nice for once.”

If staffing holds, Gray said more opportunities to bring additional programs back will hopefully arise. In addition to getting the citizens academy back up and running, Gray said he’d like to consider bringing bike control back and maybe get a K9 unit, which the department has been without.

Boyle Fire Department

Fire Chief Donnie Sexton said his wishlist for the new year is a short one.

“The two things we see the most of we wish we could fix — people who don’t have working smoke detectors and those who text when driving.”

Sexton said the department sees too many deaths from people burning in homes who could’ve gotten out if they had working detectors.

“It’s just needless. Change your battery every Fourth of July and at Christmas — July and December. That way, they’re always good,” Sexton said.

Many of the newer model detectors come with 10-year life batteries, he added.

“The new ones, you just wipe them off now and then, keep them clean. But if you don’t have  a new one, you can use an older one and just put batteries in every six months,” he said.

Just as senseless, if not more so, he said, are problems caused by drivers texting.

“We’ve seen so, so many accidents. People killed, maimed for life because they were trying to text while driving,” he said. “Texting is killing more people than alcohol-related deaths in car wrecks. That’s a shame.”

He said it’s an easy thing to fix: “Don’t text and drive. And tell all your family members not to.”

Sexton points to apps for smartphones that basically turn your phone off while driving. “It even sends a nice little message that says ‘I can’t text, I’m driving.’”

Sexton said firefighters live every day trying to put themselves out of business. “We don’t want to go to fires, and we’ve had our share of deaths this year.”

On a thankful note, Sexton said the training center finished last year has made a huge difference for them.

“We’re glad to have one used not only by us, but Danville police, fire and the sheriff’s office,” Sexton says. Having a county-wide training center actually improves emergency services, he says.

“If you know the name of everyone you’re dealing with, them coming out and doing training here, it’s been a good way for our people and their people to get to know each other. It can only make an emergency scene go better,” Sexton said.

The revamped center is behind the main county fire station, on Lebanon Road.