The Ashley County Quorum Court reached a decision about abolishing the City of Hamburg’s dispatching debt, but they don’t know what that decision is.
In recent months, the Quorum has discussed what they believe Hamburg owes for dispatching services provided through the Ashley County Sheriff’s Department. The problem they faced, however, was until recently the agreement was not a written contract but a verbal agreement made more than a decade ago.
Justice Jeff Langley made a motion to clear the slate for the Hamburg dispatcher service debt. The court voted 7-3 in favor of the motion.
Justice Ronnie Wheeler pointed out that a yes from two-thirds of the full court was needed in order to pass the motion as it was presented. Two-thirds of 11 is eight.
Another justice pointed out, however, that former Justice Hiram Taylor’s seat was vacated last month, meaning only 10 members sit on the court. County Attorney David Harrod said he was going to look into the issue and report back to the court with an answer.
In other news, the county’s 911 contract with AT&T is up and the Ashley County Quorum Court’s 911 committee recommended that the county switch providers.
The county’s bill with AT&T which included a 911 service contract recently doubled going from $5,500 to 10,600.
Brandy Dye with the county’s 911 service and chairman of the 911 committee, Justice Ricky Simms, spoke with the court about the new policies governed by the state, the restructuring of the 911 and Public-Safety Answering Point (PSAP) funds, and the pros and cons of going with a new service, Solacom.
A new state law now requires emergency services to use Next Generation 911 to cover all types of emergency contact. The current contract the county has is not compatable with that and the county is going to have to upgrade equipment to comply. Solacom is a provider that Dye said can save the county money and provide the county with equipment that meets the new requirements.
Additionally, if Ashley County chooses to go with their service, they can become a host for other counties.
Dye told the court that there has been talk that — because the 911 commission is restructuring in January — several counties could lose their PSAP funds, forcing them to combine with other counties. Other counties in north Arkansas are jumping ahead and not combining, but collaborating, she said. Counties working together and sharing equipment to save money can change the way the 911 funds are distributed when it comes time to restructure.
Justice Ronnie Wheeler told the court that he had sat in on meetings and all of the conversation was going in the direction of consolidating and cutting funds.
“We can be on the front end of this or we can be on the rear end of this,” Wheeler said.
After the court discussed switching to Solacom, the discussion moved from switching to paying for the equipment.
The new equipment is going to cost the county approximately $100,000, but Wheeler told the court that the county was going to have to upgrade equipment whether it went with a new company or not. Dye said one benefit of the Solacom service is that there is no monthly fee. Once the equipment is bought, there is only $8,000 due annually, which is a much smaller number than the monthly AT&T bill.
“Do we want to pay for it right now, or do we want to add it into next year’s budget,” County Judge Jim Hudson asked.
Justice Ron Miller suggested that the court let the budget committee decide how to pay for it.
“I think we just pass it and then we let the 911 committee decide how they are going to pay for it whether they are going to finance it or pay for it,” Miller said.