East Feliciana reaches 911 dispatching agreement

East Feliciana Parish officials have reached an agreement to turn over all emergency call-taking and dispatching duties to the parish’s Emergency Communications Commission next month.

Sheriff’s Office employees answer all 911 calls, then dispatch sheriff’s deputies, municipal police, fire departments, ambulances and other emergency responders as needed.

The commission receives revenue from a telephone subscriber surcharge and a property tax to operate the 911 system, which has been housed in the Sheriff’s Office since the service began.

Sheriff Talmadge Bunch asked for more money from the commission in October, saying his office had “borne the lion’s share” of personnel costs associated with answering 911 calls.

The request led to a dispute that almost resulted in the two agencies severing their relationship, but both sides agreed in November to extend the cost-sharing agreement until May 15.

The Emergency Communications Commission has purchased new, state-of-the-art telephone equipment and a computerized dispatching system for the new call center, which will be operational May 15, commission Chairman Bill Ford said.

The commission has spent about $494,000 but needs about $40,000 more to get the system operational, commission Executive Director Ben Chasteen said.

He and Sheriff’s Office representative Wendi Hooge asked the Police Jury Tuesday to contribute $20,000 to the project.

The Police Jury referred the request to its Finance Committee.

“We’ll give it back to them if we get some money from the state capital outlay program,” Ford said.

The new system will pinpoint the location of a 911 caller on a computerized map in the 911 center, Chasteen said.

Ford and Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Cliff Hurst said the final details have not been ironed out, but the Sheriff’s Office will pay at least $100,000 per year for the commission to furnish the dispatchers.

“It may run a little higher. We feel like it’s the best thing to do,” Hurst said.

The Sheriff’s Office will pay the commission $20,000 through the end of the year for dispatching calls to municipal police departments, Ford and Hurst said, giving the commission time to work out financial arrangements with Clinton, Jackson, Slaughter, Norwood and Wilson officials.

Negotiations are continuing with the parishwide fire district for a contribution to the dispatching costs, Ford added.