Towns try to work out deal for 911 services
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – Cornelius is making one last effort to keep Huntersville as a partner for its 911 call center.
The town of Huntersville decided last year to pull out from working with the town of Cornelius in a cost-saving measure and contract with Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department for its 911 services.
And while the Cornelius town board had begun to come to terms with the fact that Huntersville was no longer a part of the 911 center, Town Manager Anthony Roberts said they weren’t ready to give up just yet.
“We never wanted them to leave, and just looking at regionalism … that’s why we got into it together and we wanted to continue that relationship,” Roberts said.
So Cornelius and Huntersville commissioners and town staff met last week to discuss the transition, and on Friday, March 23, Roberts sent over a list of contract options for Huntersville officials to consider.
Roberts said Huntersville backed out of the Cornelius 911 center last year because it was costing Huntersville too much thanks to state funding changes.
He said the state started withholding money designated for 911 centers, leaving 911 centers to make up the difference depending on different variables.
“So we tried to say let’s just do a contractual basis with Huntersville and get out of the state formula stuff, and just let that be our problem so they don’t have to worry about it,” Roberts said about the contract options the town drew up for Huntersville.
Cornelius Police Chief Bence Hoyle said the town has a great 911 center, with all the up-to-date equipment to provide the best service possible, but understands that Huntersville has a tough call to make since the economics of funding the services are different.
Cornelius gets funding from the state for its 911 costs, but Huntersville has to foot the bill from its own budget.
“We’d love to have (Huntersville) stay on, we always have, but I respect whatever decision they make and we’ll work with them even if they leave,” Hoyle said.
The three options are as follows:
• A two-year contract for $275,000 per year, using existing staff with the current single frequency.
• A five-year contract for $375,000 per year, adding four dispatchers in 2015 to split frequencies.
• A five-year contract for $450,000 per year, adding four dispatchers in 2013 to split frequencies.
Splitting the frequencies would allow Cornelius and Huntersville police departments to have their own lines for communication rather than fighting for space on one frequency.
Huntersville Commissioner Melinda Bales, who is the town board’s liaison to the police department, said she and the other commissioners have received the contract information from Cornelius, but haven’t been able to discuss it yet.
“Hopefully in the next few days we’ll have that opportunity to look them over and then go from there,” Bales said.
When reached Tuesday, March 27, Huntersville Police Chief Phil Potter said he hadn’t seen the contract proposal yet from Cornelius.
“I think the issue’s been debated enough about why we’re looking at some other form of police dispatch service, and I haven’t really had a chance to look at the document and discuss it with the town manager, so I think it’s premature to make a comment when I haven’t even looked at it,” Potter said.
Bales said the commissioners have not received a contract to look over yet from Charlotte Mecklenburg police, but expect to have one sometime in April. The board will likely discuss both contracts during an upcoming meeting.
“We’ll see what transpires from (the Cornelius offer) and go from there,” Bales said. “It’s nice to have another proposal.”