The ongoing debate between Kokomo and Howard County officials regarding how to fund the combined dispatch center has taken an unexpected turn in support of the city’s stance.
As promised, Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight and city attorney Lawrence McCormack appeared at the Kokomo Housing Authority building for a Friday meeting with county officials to discuss dispatch center funding.
No county officials appeared, but a letter was received just prior to the meeting requesting an alternative meeting date.
The discussion about funding changed when earlier this year Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation which addressed interlocal agreements that share the cost and funding of dispatch centers. The new law says taxpayers cannot be taxed twice for the same service.
Currently, Kokomo pays 70 percent of the cost and Howard County 30 percent of operating a joint dispatch center for emergency services, after the 911 fee on telephones is subtracted. Dispatch services were combined starting in 2011 with a budget of $1.4 million; a combined savings of $700,000 per year.
Goodnight said city taxpayers pay 86 percent of the dispatch center costs through property taxes and the 911 surcharge on telephones.
Earlier this year, the Kokomo Common Council voted to terminate the existing agreement at the end of year. The city wants to negotiate a new agreement with the county that would require the 11 townships, Russiaville and Greentown to pay a portion of the costs.
Goodnight called the new state law a “game changer” when it comes to dispatch center funding not only locally but around the state.
He said the city is willing to consider continuing to provide some funding for the dispatch center, if allowed under the new state law.
When asked if the city would consider restarting a dispatch center for the Kokomo police and fire departments if calls were transferred from the county facility, Goodnight said he would expect dispatch services to be the same in the city as for other county residents.