By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
It’s final. The board of aldermen here on Tuesday voted on a proposal that will see the City of Poplarville set up its own police dispatching services for nonemergency calls.
The board of aldermen chose the least expensive of three alternatives.
The new system, which officials said should be installed by Jan. 1, will cost the city approximately $17,000 a year. One other alternative was estimated to cost $20,000, and a third, leaving the service as is and using the county dispatching services, was going to cost the city $85,000 a year.
Alderman Bill Winborn motioned to go with the cheapest alternative, seconded by alderman Dr. John A. Grant, Jr. Winborn’s motion passed unanimously, 5-0. Besides Grant and Winborn, voting for the alternative were aldermen Byron Wells, Shirley Wiltshire and Johnny Sherman. The cheapest alternative came through the American Law Enforcement Network.
The new system will handle nonemergency calls that will come directly into the Poplarville police department, and calls from Poplarville officers handling routine tag and license checks. The county would continue to field 911 emergency calls, since the city is included in the 911 emergency service, which is governed by the board of supervisors.
Computer laptops, computer programs and additional cell phones will have to be purchased. The city also is applying for two state grants, totaling $12,000 to help pay for the new program, said Poplarville police dept. Capt. Rossie Creel, who briefed aldermen on the three alternatives.
Creel, after the meeting of the board of aldermen, told the Picayune Item the system should be up and running by Jan. 1, but might have to be tweaked just a little after that start-up date.
At that time, beginning Jan. 1, Poplarville residents will call a Poplarville police department telephone number to report nonemergency situations but will continue to dial 911 for emergency calls, said Creel.
The Poplarville board of aldermen began searching for ways to confront the dispatching problem, after Sheriff David Allison in a September letter to aldermen said that the City of Poplarville would have to pick up the salaries of two dispatchers, and originally set an Oct. 1 deadline for an answer, or dispatching services, including 911, would be terminated to the city.
However, the board of aldermen maintained Allison didn’t have the authority to terminate 911 services, that only the board of supervisors, which operates as the 911 county commission, did, and aldermen began exploring other ways to handle the issue, other than paying $85,000 a year to support two dispatchers for the county.
The deadline was then moved to Nov. 1 and then to the first of the year, to give officials time to discuss the issue.
Officials who are familiar with the situation and the discussions said that the county is contemplating setting up one central county dispatch that would cover all 911 services for the entire county. Currently, 911 services in the southern part of the county is handled out of the Picayune police department, and for the northern part, including Poplarville, out of the sheriff’s department. The dividing line runs through McNeill.
The cheapest program came through the American Law Enforcement Network program.
“The good news is the grants,” said Mayor Billy Spiers. “That will help defray the initial costs.”
Said Winborn, “We need to proceed with our own (dispatch) right now.”
Said Grant, “This is a solution to the problem at less than a quarter of what we thought we originally were going to have to pay.”
Said Winborn, before making the motion, “I think we need to go with the $17,000, and the quicker the better.”
Said Grant, “Are we at the point to where we need to take action?”
Spiers: “Bill made a motion.”
Grant: “I will second that motion.”
Spiers: “All in favor, say aye.”
All five aldermen said “aye.”