(EDITOR’S NOTE: Discussions and rumors have been ongoing in the past several weeks concerning the status of 911 in Meigs County, Ohio.
For some time the deadline to add an additional dispatcher to Meigs 911 has been looming. The deadline is in May of 2018. At that time, if the county is not in compliance with the Ohio Administrative Code, the funding from the 50 cent tax on cell phones will not go to Meigs County. The portion Meigs receives is up to $120,000 per year.
The Meigs Independent Press has had several discussions with all three commissioners concerning 911. The amount listed below of $452,000 was never discussed. What had been discussed was adding another dispatcher per the requirement from the OAC.
For the past year the Meigs Independent Press has been listening to the 911 scanner, noting various issues and concerns. On Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018 the Meigs Independent Press delivered a formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request detailing 32 questions concerning Meigs 911 and Meigs County EMS. A copy was delievered directly to Commissioners Randy Smith, Mike Bartrum and Tim Ihle so that they would be aware of what was being asked of Meigs County EMS Director Robbie Jacks. The FOIA request was delivered to Director Jacks office, however, the Meigs Independent Press was informed that Director Jacks would not be back in the office until Monday, Jan. 8, 2018. When the information has been received by the MIP, a full article will be published.
At this point, the statement from the Meigs County Commissioners is being provided for the public.)
Below is the full text of the press release from the Meigs County Commissioners from the Meigs County Commissioners Facebook page (It is unclear who wrote the response):
“Normally we do not respond to social media posts about county business when they are fueled by rumors. However, we feel that the general public deserves to have valid concerns addressed.
The situation that is being posted about regards 911. The state (through the Ohio Administrative Code or OAC) has legislated certain requirements for 911. These requirements would cost the county around $452,000.00. If we do not meet the requirements, the state would take away the phone usage surcharge that the county receives to support the 911 center. That is a loss of approximately $120,000.00. Nothing about this situation is good when you take into account the recent loss of the MCO sales tax (in excess of $500,000.00) that will drastically affect the county’s annual budget.
Nothing about this has been a secret. This has been an area of concern for two years and we have been transparent with the staff and administration of 911, the sheriff, and other county officials. As well the situation has been openly discussed at public meetings. As it has become apparent that the no meaningful solutions have been developed to help small, rural, economically depressed counties such as ours, we have decided to fight like we always do to preserve what little we do have in the county. Saying that, the county commissioners have taken a very proactive stance in trying to get support for the current 911 service the county provides and keep it where it is.
We have met with village officials (Middleport and Pomeroy) of the county to make them aware and to get support. We have and will continue to meet with state legislators, state department heads related to 911 and the CCAO (County Commissioners Association) to be heard and make a collaborative effort to resolve this situation.
Commissioner Randy Smith and Director Robbie Jacks met with legislators and the CCAO in Columbus this past week in what I believe was a very productive meeting. We have another meeting next week to continue discussions.
It is true that we have discussed the issue of sharing 911 with an adjacent county. For several years “shared services” have been a way of life in southeastern Ohio. However in the 911 world we do not believe that is a viable option. However, it is our job to explore all options to make sure we meet the needs of the county and stay within budget. It’s easy to look at one area from the outside and forget about all the other requirements and services that county government has to provide.
Every one of those services is vital to someone. As you can imagine, those are tough decisions to make and at the end of the day someone is going to be unhappy if we do not get support from the state government.
The truth about this situation is that the battle is just beginning and we do not have all the answers. We have promised to Director Jacks and he has passed that promise on to the employees of 911 that we will do everything in our power to keep 911 here.
One thing we do know is that our community is very good at thinking of creative ways to make ends meet and we are confident we will come up with solutions to fix this new unfunded mandate from state officials.
At some point we may have to call on the community to be vocal about their concerns with people from outside of Meigs County.
We hope we can work together to that end and not be working against each other. Representative Jay Edwards has been very supportive and has been fighting for our county so there is no need to reach out to him right now. If we do not get results we assure you we will keep the public notified and be asking for your help if it comes to that.
If you have questions or concerns, please call the Commissioners Office at 740-992-2895 or Director Jacks at 740-992-4725. As always the public is invited to attend our weekly board meetings held every Thursday morning at 11:00am at the courthouse.”