OUR OPINION: Reconsider E911 cost-saving idea

By NEMS Daily Journal

Lee County E911 executive director Paul Harkins should reconsider his flat refusal to consider a $47,000 savings for Lee County and Tupelo’s taxpayers by altering his employees’ work schedules.
Harkins, presented with a plan by Tupelo Fire Chief Thomas Walker that has saved $268,000 in overtime cost for the City of Tupelo, said that a $47,000 savings was not worth the effort and that it would be bad for his employees’ morale, presumably because overtime would be lost.
Surely Harkins realizes that government at every level is strapped for cash and taxpayers are not in a mood for cavalier attitudes or spending that could be avoided with better management.
Walker, it should be noted, was not butting into something that’s not his business. He is a commissioner of the E911 system, as is Chief of Police Tony Carleton. He was doing his job.
The savings issue, it should be noted, was not supported by the commission, but one vote does not nullify the possibility, the need, for additional discussions.
Walker said even small savings are important when public dollars are at stake. He is right.
Most governments at every level have had to find ways to save on costs, including personnel, and if eliminating overtime can work without actually costing positions it should get serious consideration.
The emergency response agency recently requested and received a nearly 60 percent overall funding increase from Lee County, its municipalities and the North Mississippi Medical Center for the services it provides, the Journal reported last week.
Lee County’s municipalities are paying more to support E911 services. Tupelo was asked to raise its allocation from $89,182 to $138,000.
We understand that E911’s costs are rising because of higher technology costs and planned service improvements, but the municipalities of Lee County and the county itself are not cash cows. They all must control costs; there’s pain in the hard decisions.
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