I am writing this letter as a singular Ralls County 911 Board of Directors member, and in no way is this meant to speak for any other member of the Board, nor any other official entities that may be mentioned.
I am writing this letter as a singular Ralls County 911 Board of Directors member, and in no way is this meant to speak for any other member of the Board, nor any other official entities that may be mentioned. This is to serve solely as an information letter to the citizens of Ralls County after seeing some egregiously inaccurate, inflammatory and outright false information recently posted on social media as it relates to the status of the Ralls County 911 service. I would strongly encourage those who are interested to attend the board meetings to gather first hand, factual information if you are interested. The Board meets on the third Thursday of each month at the Ralls County 911 Building.
Let me start by offering the following as fact: There is no one person, no organization and no individual agenda (as accused) to have the Ralls County 911 purposefully and willfully moved away from the physical location in Ralls County. Everyone involved has and continues to explore options that are financially and logistically feasible, as well as providing the best possible service to the citizens of Ralls County.
In November of 2017, the Board of Directors of Ralls 911 and the then 911 Director issued a letter stating they would no longer offer certain vital services to public safety agencies. These specific services were critically pivotal in the daily operations and safety of some of the agencies. As anyone would do in any case, when a customer is being provided a vital service, and that service will no longer be offered, the customer is forced to find a vendor that does offer those services in order to continue with the business. It is important to know that this letter was officially issued without the knowledge or approval of two of the sitting board members at the time. When the letter of notice came out, they were both taken aback at the fact of such a drastic measure being taken without full board input. The statement that the Ralls County Commissioners and the Sheriff Department support moving Ralls 911 dispatch is simply false, unsubstantiated and unfounded. That claim is based strictly on gossip, rumors and a pre-existing issue with these entities by the ex-board member.
On to the current status: A two-year management contract was agreed to and signed by the Ralls 911 Board last year allowing Marion-Lewis County 911 to provide 911 coverage while attempting to restructure, staff and train employees for the Ralls 911 Center, all while attempting to fix the numerous and complex inadequate/faulty technology ongoing issues. We are less than one year into that contract. Currently, Ralls County 911 has four employees. Even with that shortage, Marion-Lewis 911 has provided the most professional, efficient, reliable and accurate dispatching service that the county citizens could possibly have. They provide the most up to date technology, a full-time staff of highly trained employees, ongoing training and staffing.
There is a national shortage of dispatching candidates. It is a thankless, relentlessly stressful job, that, according to national statistics, only two percent of the population can do professionally and effectively. There is a huge turnover rate in the industry as well due to stress, long hours, and myriad of other issues inherent to the job. As of now, staffing is the number one issue as far as progression. Staffing and training for the position is a long and involved process if done correctly. If we said we wanted to open the Ralls 911 Center back up tomorrow, there would be only 4 employees to cover shifts 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The best analogy I have heard is this: When building a house, the foundation takes the longest amount of time, and there are a number of extremely important steps to be done correctly in order to make the home solid and reliable. No matter how fast you want your house built, it takes time to do it the right way. After the foundation is in place, all else falls into place much more smoothly and efficiently.
The claim of “Ralls County money” being spent elsewhere is both uneducated and antiquated in thought process. Yes, there was a tax voted on by the citizens in order to ensure Ralls County can continue to receive 911 service. How many of us shop online, go to Walmart or other places outside of Ralls County to spend our money? It is impractical and problematic to choose to look at the situation in that light. By the way, that tax amount can always be adjusted down if the citizens wish to do so. The Ralls 911 Center has a tax revenue budget of just over $1 million a year. We are fortunate have one of most highly respected 911 agencies in the State of Missouri and beyond doing that now for a fee of approximately $150,000 per year, which is a fraction of previous operating budget.
Marion-Lewis 911 has stated they are able to provide the full service for $250,000 to $300,000 per year, which is a saving to Ralls County taxpayers of $800,000 to $900,000 per year over current spending. It is also important to know that as of last statistics, Ralls County 911 receives nine calls per hour. If taken back to previous standards, that would mean three full-time employees plus office staff to handle less than one call per hour.
In a meeting last month, I asked 911 Chairman Lowell Jackson, on the record, if he supports making a decision to spend a full million dollars of tax money in lieu of at least exploring other options, his response was, “Well, that is what the citizens voted for.” I rephrased the question, asking “You are saying that the citizens voted to spend a million dollars on a service, and now that we can consider an option that wasn’t available at that time, we should not at least explore that option and just spend the million? ” His response was “That’s the way I see it.” I am floored at that mindset, and am confident that an informed, educated citizen would feel the same.
We had a board member who recently resigned, making an issue of how hard they “fought for the citizens” on this issue. They ran to be elected for the position and simply quit after just a couple of meetings when encountering differing views, opinions and alternative choices before making a final decision. Again, I continue to be shocked at the level of hatefulness, spite and anger. I simply don’t understand it. Is it now that if a person does not agree, they are immediately attacked as being some sort of problem or an attempt is made to discredit them, rather than stay focused on the issue at hand?
In closing I wish to reiterate the following: No one is selling out Ralls County. No one is making efforts to take anything away from the citizens. We are simply less than half way into the two-year agreement that was signed by a previous Ralls 911 Board. No decisions have been made to alter the original course voted on months prior. I see it as my fiduciary duty as an elected board member to explore all options available to provide the citizens with the best possible service, without emotional and dramatic statements and feigned cries of subversive motives and underlying agendas.
At the close of the October Ralls 911 board meeting, there was a unanimous vote of confidence by all board members present to continue with the current contact with Marion-Lewis 911 while continuing to explore all feasible options. Let us not forget we are talking about a service that literally involves life and death issues for our families, ourselves and those in Ralls County EMS, Fire, Law Enforcement, Emergency Management and others dependent on this vital service, so I am trying to ensure it is the best that it can be.
Respectfully submitted for your information,
Eastern District Ralls County 911 Board Member