The Seymour Police Department is using its allocated 911 funds to add a 12th dispatcher position and upgrade its communications equipment.
For the past five or six years, the county 911 board has provided both the department and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department with funds every year since they are the only dispatch centers for the county. That money is generated by a 95-cents-per-month user fee billed to landline and cellular telephone customers.
Chief Bill Abbott asked the city council Monday to transfer $102,126.58 from the 911 grant holdings fund into the city’s general fund. That allows the money to be appropriated and spent properly, Abbott said.
Abbott said changes in state accounting practices made last year have changed how 911 money can be spent and prompted him to make the transfer and appropriation requests.
The council approved $45,000 of that amount to be moved from the general fund to the police dispatch fund and the remaining $57,126.58 into the police equipment fund.
“Traditionally, the county has always put their money directly into dispatch payroll,” Abbott said. “I asked for and received an exemption to use ours for dispatch equipment, which covers about anything. But the state 911 board said last year we couldn’t do that, and it had to be put into the budget somewhere.”
In the future, Abbott plans to leave the position in his budget as unfunded contingent on the 911 money.
The annual salary of the new dispatcher is not to exceed $34,076, according to the city’s salary ordinance.
Abbott hopes to have the position filled sometime this year, he said.
Although the call volume at the police station has remained steady in the past few years, the nature of those calls is more complex, Abbott said.
Whether it’s dealing with a language barrier or some other issue, calls require more procedures to be followed, he added.
“It takes twice as long to answer a call these days,” Abbott said.
The new position also will help with issues the department has with attrition and with having enough staff available to cover sick days and vacation time for other dispatchers.
“In the past three years, I’ve had to deny vacation time at the end of the year because we just don’t have enough people available to cover us,” Abbott said.