The White County Quorum Court made a preemptive strike Tuesday night against the possibility of state legislation being passed that would cut 911 operations funding by more than 25 percent and result in call centers having to consolidate.
County Judge Michael Lincoln told the justices of the peace that House Bill 1946, which was filed last week, would significantly reduce funding to 911 public safety addressing points (call centers). HB1946, sponsored by Rep. Michelle Gray (R-Melbourne), was being heard by the House City, County and Local Affairs Committee .
“This is very crucial,” Lincoln said. He urged justices to call District 46 Rep. Les Eaves (R-Searcy) concerning the bill and said he has already had conversations with Rep. Craig Christiansen (R-Bald Knob) in District 47, Rep. Cameron Cooper (R-Romance) and Rep. Jim Wooten (R-Beebe). Lincoln said he had sent a text message to Eaves.
Although Lincoln said the latest report he had received was that the bill wasn’t going anywhere, he said the county needed to be prepared in case it did, which is why the JPs approved spending $80,000 to equip the three remaining stations at the White County 911 Operations Center.
Lincoln said “this budget year” was the first time the county “did not have to supplement 911, and I believe our supplement is about $253,000 in times past. We fought hard to get that bill [the Arkansas Public Safety Act of 2019] passed and in less than a year, the Legislature is trying to change it.
“What I have been told is that Rep. Gray that is sponsoring this bill, her sheriff told her that they had more money than they knew what to do with. Well, you’re going on one county, and there’s 75 counties, and I don’t even know what their responsibility is for 911 in that particular county.”
Lincoln said the county currently has six 911 stations at its operation center, so the new stations will boost the total to nine.
“They will be equipped with the computer, the computer screen and what is called the ACIC [Arkansas Crime Information Center], ... where they can pull up an individual and to see if they have a warrant and things like that, plus they will have the address mapping, what is known as the locator when the call comes in.”
According to Lincoln, what the county is trying to prepare for is “if we have to expand because of the state 911 board consolidating PSAPs. Right now, we have two in White County – the city of Searcy and the county has one. If they were to take one away, it would be the city of Searcy because the county is the primary. So, we are trying to be in the position if we are reduced to one, we will have plenty of room to bring Searcy dispatchers into our center to make sure the county is covered.”
“The other aspect is some of the smaller surrounding counties, they may try to make White County a regional hub so that we would dispatch for Woodruff, Prairie and some of the smaller counties around us to reduce the number of PSAPS in the state of Arkansas,” he said.