Union County will likely be able to centralize 911 dispatch operations in the early months of 2024, Justice of the Peace Mike Dumas said during a meeting of the Quorum Court on Thursday.
"Once the board has approved the final design – we expect to do that this next month – once that's completed, we'll start this process of constructing it on the first floor of the Warner Brown hospital," Dumas said. "Blake Dunn, the architect, says it'll take about six months to build the 911 dispatch center, so that means we're somewhere around the first of the year or shortly thereafter being ready to consolidate the two dispatches."
Last July, JPs agreed to purchase the old Warner Brown hospital building, with plans to centralize the county's two dispatch operations. Currently, both the El Dorado Police Department and Union County Sheriff's Office operate separate dispatch facilities.
A committee – the board Dumas referred to – has been formed to oversee the design, construction and management of the new facility. City officials from throughout the county, along with county officials and emergency service providers, all sit on the board.
The county is currently advertising for a construction management/general contractor service provider to help oversee the facility's planning and construction, as well as for a 911 facility manager, who will oversee day-to-day management of the new dispatch center.
On Thursday, Dumas presented an ordinance for consideration that would establish funding for the 911 facility manager's compensation.
"Under the advice of the architect – (he) wanted us to move forward by (hiring) not only a manager, or director, and also hiring a contractor," he said. "This position is very critical because they will run the 911 dispatch center with about 18 or 19 employees."
The ordinance outlines a salary range of $57,000-$65,000 annually, along with benefits, and a total appropriation of $110,432.08, which would cover a salary up to the maximum ($65,000), Social Security matching ($4,972.50), the county's contribution to the worker's retirement ($10,400), health insurance matching ($28,859.58) and worker's compensation coverage ($1,200).
District 10 JP Ross Burton asked whether the city – El Dorado – would contribute toward the manager's salary. Dumas explained that in addition to $700,000-$800,000 annual funding from the state, the county will determine a rate, likely based on population, for each of the municipalities in the county to pay towards the facility's operation as well.
"Not only El Dorado, but all the other cities – the County Judge will advise them, he'll figure out what the rate will be, how much everyone will pay, but everyone's going to participate in funding the 911 center," Dumas said.
Sheriff Ricky Roberts noted that state law required the county to consolidate the dispatch operations.
"This was state-mandated. This wasn't something we wanted to do; our employees want to stay with us, their employees want to stay with them, but the state has said... 'You either bring it together or you lose your funding,' so that's where we're at," he said.
Dumas said Dunn is expected to present the final design of the new facility at the next meeting of the dispatch board, and said a construction manager/contractor will be needed before work on the facility begins.
"The architect wants us to hire a contract manager that will oversee the project and each element that would be bid out – to look for the lowest bid on air conditioning, heating and all the various aspects of construction, rather than just a turnkey package deal," he said.
JPs unanimously approved the salary ordinance on Thursday.
A job description for the new facility manager outlining the duties of and qualifications for the role was also provided to JPs on Thursday.
The manager will report to the committee, and will supervise 18-19 employees, Dumas said on Thursday. The job description also lays out some financial and human resources-related responsibilities.
Qualifications include a high school diploma or GED, relevant experience and a clean background check and drug screening, among others. The manager will be able to accrue leave time after a year, will be a part of the county's retirement system and will be eligible for medical and dental insurance.
A full job description and applications are available in County Judge Mike Loftin's office at the Union County Courthouse. Applicants are asked to submit a cover letter, resume and application to Loftin at 101 N. Washington Ave., Ste. 101, El Dorado, AR 71730.