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Tuesday, August 10,2010

911 services

Approval expected on transferring city employees to the county

by Andy Balaskovitz
The Lansing City Council is expected to approve an employment agreement with Ingham County at Monday’s meeting as part of consolidating 911 dispatch services.

The agreement addresses how much the city and the county will pay by transferring 42 existing employee contracts from a city-run 911 dispatch center to a county-run center that also includes East Lansing’s emergency response system.

“The bottom line is that the county has agreed to assume the liabilities with the city employees they hire,” Jerry Ambrose, Lansing Finance Department director, said. “If there is pension or healthcare liability, it will be assumed by the county.”

In all, the agreement gives the county nearly $4 million that the city of Lansing pays for current employees for pension, healthcare and paid leave costs. The agreement states that the city will continue paying about $250,000 per year for 24 retirees’ healthcare costs.

Ambrose said long-term potential savings are about $2 million over the next 20 to 30 years.

A consolidated 911 dispatch service will cost about 10 percent less to operate, or about $900,000 less per year, and that should be exciting for taxpayers, Ambrose said.

While the Council has no say in the actual consolidation of the two dispatch units — a new facility is expected to be up and running by late 2011 at the corner of Jolly Road and Cedar Street — Ambrose said it could affect city employees’ current contracts by not passing the measure.

The agreement passed the Committee of the Whole last week unanimously, and At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries expects it to pass the Council as well.

Even though the contract is expected to pass, Jeffries still has questions about the consolidation as a whole. For one, he is concerned that a backup facility will be located outside of Ingham County.

He also said that the city is owed roughly $200,000 in overtime costs from fixing problems resulting from an agreement with the county on an emergency radio dispatch system. Jeffries wanted the county to sue M/A-Comm, the company that installed the faulty services, to recoup costs. The county did not sue.

While some may not link the radio problems with the consolidated dispatch center, Jeffries disagrees.

“There’s still an outstanding bill from these services, and I see the 911 agreement as a way to get some of that back,” Jeffries said. “I do think there’s a connection there.”

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