The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 3, 2013

Our View: Taxpayers come out winners

The Joplin Globe

— Hats off to the Jasper County Emergency Services Board for approving a plan to provide dispatching services — at no additional charge to the taxpayer — for the Jasper County sheriff’s office.

The arrangement got off to a good start Monday, according to Sheriff Randee Kaiser and April Tarrant, executive director of the county’s 911 board.

It doesn’t represent a new association between the two agencies. The county board dispatched for the sheriff’s office earlier, but at a cost of $110,000 per year.

The current board said it wanted to serve the sheriff’s office at no charge. We agree with comments from several members, who said doing otherwise would be like asking residents to pay twice, since both are county agencies funded by tax dollars. The 911 center is financed by a one-tenth-cent sales tax, and sheriff’s funding includes a quarter-cent law enforcement sales tax.

When the dispatching program was set after voters approved the one-tenth-cent sales tax for financing, the board in place at the time set a deadline for agencies to receive free services, then shut the door on those that made other choices.

The Sheriff’s Department and police departments in Carthage, Webb City and Carl Junction chose to maintain their own dispatching. So calls coming in on 911 lines would be transferred to those agencies by the county center.

The city of Joplin worked out an agreement to get its own 911 calls directly, and the county board for a time paid the city to serve as dispatching backup, though the board ended those payment several years ago.

As the composition of the elected board changed, some board members said the Sheriff’s Department or other agencies that wanted the service should get it at no additional cost since all county taxpayers were picking up the bill.

But some longtime members resisted, saying the sheriff was being charged for handling non-emergency calls. They said the board, when the 911 center was formed, decided that it handled emergency and non-emergency calls for smaller entities and that and other agencies “made their choice” by not signing on when the group was organized.

We applaud the board for its recognition that an operation funded by a countywide tax has a responsibility to the entire county. It’s been a long time coming.

And we welcome discussion between the board and the city of Joplin on a consolidation plan.