Houston wants to renegotiate 911 contract


HOUSTON – The City of Houston is seeking to renegotiate its contract with the county to handle dispatching for the city police and fire services.

Chickasaw County and Houston negotiated a contract in 2010 that handed city dispatching duties over to the county’s 911 operations center for an annual fee of $100,000. Houston is the only municipality in the county that pays for this service.

“I am asking we write a letter saying where we are at this point and that we want to revisit our contract with the county,” said Houston Mayor Stacey Parker. “This board has talked about this arrangement before and I would like to see us formally approach the county and talk about this.”

Houston entered its contract with Chickasaw County in February 2010 and dissolved its dispatching center at the Houston Police Department that had been costing it $165,000 in salaries and equipment annually.

The motion to renegotiate the current 911 contract was made by Place 3 Alderman Frank Thomas and seconded by Place 4 Alderman Willie Mae McKinney. The vote was unanimous with Place 1 Alderman Tony Uhiren absent from the Dec. 3 regular meeting.

Aldermen pointed out calls to 911 must be dispatched to the appropriate agency or emergency service under current state law.

While neither Okolona, Woodland nor Houlka pay for dispatching services, their dispatching arrangements are different.

The Okolona Fire Department handles dispatching duties for the Okolona Police Department, the Okolona Water Department and the Okolona Municipal Electric Department. Under the current arrangement police, fire, electric and water department calls are routed to the appropriate emergency service or agency through four UHF radios by firefighters. Any after-hours non-911 telephone calls to police, fire or city services are answered by Okolona Fire Department firefighters on duty at the fire department.

The Okolona Electric Department pays a quarter of the fire department’s dispatching expenses.

Okolona Fire Chief Terry Tucker said it is not the best arrangement and when firefighters go on a fire call the phones are not answered.

“The state rating bureau has pointed out we need to upgrade our dispatching services or our insurance rating could drop,” said Tucker. “Also, if we go on a call and someone calls needing help, or a police officer needs help, it could be dangerous.”

Police in Houlka, Woodland and Okolona currently contact Chickasaw County 911 to run a car tag during a traffic stop.

Non-911 calls to the Houlka Police Department and Houlka Fire Department ring to City Hall and the community must call 911 after hours for help. The same situation applies to Woodland.

The current contract requires the City of Houston to pay $8,333.33 each month and requires a 60-day notice to terminate the agreement. The contract called for the agreement to be reviewed by the city and county in July. State law also prevents actions of previous boards from being binding on newly elected city or county boards.

At the time of the agreement in 2010, the county also hired Houston’s three dispatchers to work as 911 dispatchers.

Chickasaw County 911 currently handles all dispatching duties for the Houston Fire Department and the Houston Police Department. Chickasaw County 911 also handles dispatching duties for the two TransCare ambulances that serve Houston and all of Chickasaw County.

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