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911 center wants four employees
County to discuss tipping fees, water rates Monday
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Calls to the 911 center continue to increase, but a lack of employees to cover regular shifts has resulted in skyrocketing overtime costs, and 911 Director Mike Smith hopes to solve the issue by adding four employees next fiscal year.


Overtime costs for calendar year 2010 were $241,000, but the center only budgeted $150,000 for the fiscal year from July 1, 2010 to June 30.

In an effort to decrease those costs, Smith wants to hire four employees at a total cost of $170,224. He predicts this hires would reduce overtime costs to $75,000 next year. In addition to increased equipment costs, the 911 center's budget would jump by $146,024 to $2.92 million.

The Covington-Newton County 911 Communications Center handles all 911 calls and directs them to the appropriate agencies. The center is jointly funded by Covington and the county and also receives fee payments from Covington, Porterdale and Oxford based on the number of calls for service to each of those cities fire and police agencies.
Smith said the center has not had a staffing increase for five years, and is now two short of the 20 full-time dispatchers he needs to adequately staff the call center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Given the fact Newton County is expecting $2.6 million less in revnues; it will have difficulty funding its 50 percent share of the increase.

In addition to personnel costs, Smith also requested $42,000 to replace the center's computers and convert the servers to a "virtual environment," which will be lower maintenance, he said.

The center is dependent on equipment and had some severe equipment failures this year, he told the county board of commissioners last week.

In other county budget news, the clerk of courts, superior court and district attorney's offices presented their budgets and did not request any increases.

The county will have its next budget meeting at 6:30 p.m., Monday at the Historic Courthouse. Commissioners are expected to take a first stab at making expected revenues and requested expenses meet and will discuss solid waste tipping fees at the landfill and water rates.

The coroner will also present his budget, and the board will discuss how much money it wants to put in its reserve fund, or fund balance.