News and Tribune

September 17, 2013

Floyd County tables New Albany’s 911 funding request

Police chief Knight told to come back next month on allocation issue


NEW ALBANY — This time, the Floyd County Commissioners didn’t slam the door completely shut on the idea of giving the city of New Albany some 911 funds. However, they said there was no way they could commit $19,752 a month from the fund which had been requested in a letter sent to them by New Albany Police Chief Sherri Knight.

“We can’t guarantee $19,000 a month because we can’t guarantee we won’t have an emergency come up,” Commissioner Mark Seabrook said on Tuesday. “I would be open to a lump sum.”

Knight said the city would be “very flexible” in its request if the $19,752 a month can not be provided by the county at this time.

There is currently $400,000 in the 911 account but Commissioners’ President Steve Bush said $250,000 of that is already spoken for in the form of a yearly payment for county dispatch equipment.

Knight formally asked the commissioners again Tuesday for the city’s share in 911 funds, which are controlled by the commissioners. After several minutes of discussion, the three commissioners said they would research how much money is in the account and how much they would be able to give to the city. They told Knight to come back next month and ask again.

“I think the city deserves something,” said Commissioner Chuck Freiberger.

Bush, who is a New Albany police officer, also asked Knight if she would go back to Mayor Jeff Gahan and ask him if he would sit down with the county to again discuss merging dispatch centers. Bush said merging both city and county dispatch centers would save $300,000 annually. The city council voted against the merger in 2011 when Gahan was a member of the council after the county had approved the move.

Knight said she would pass the request on to Gahan.

Before agreeing to table the request both Knight and the commissioners debated the topic of giving 911 funds to the city. The chief said in her letter and again Tuesday night that the city had not received any 911 funds “for some time” and that the money would be used to offset employee salaries and benefits, which is allowed by the state. The 911 revenue can be used for both equipment and employee benefits.

“All residents of Floyd County, which include residents in the city of New Albany, contribute to the 911 fund,” Knight stated in her letter.

Knight has made similar requests to the county for 911 funds but has been denied each time.

“We just want our fair share,” Knight said Tuesday. “City residents contribute to the fund but do not receive anything in return.”

Bush said Knight’s request is a “fair” one but said the city does get some benefit from 911 funds from the county for sharing space on the county’s radio tower. He also said it makes no sense not to merge dispatch centers when it would save $300,000 annually.

“I would think the [city] residents would expect their leaders to be able to sit down and discuss combining both dispatch centers,” he said Tuesday.

Knight shot back saying “this request is not about merger, it’s about the city getting its fair share.”

Freiberger said he is also a proponent for the merger, although he did acknowledge the city deserves “some monies. It serves both citizens of the city and county”

“In the past we have given the city more money than the county,” he said. “We have given the city monies to replace equipment.”

Knight said the city has always been appreciative of the funds. But she said the city has received no allocation in 2013.

“We just want our fair share, nothing more, nothing less,” Knight said.

In her letter to the commissioners, Knight said based on population, New Albany residents account for 48.7 percent of Floyd County’s population. She said that is the percentage of the 911 funds that should be appropriated for city emergency expenses.

New Albany Fire Chief Matt Juliot said in 2008, he received $150,000 from 911 funds but has not received any since.

“Give us some time to think about it and we’ll see what we can do,” Seabrook told Knight and Juliot.