By Samantha Swindler / Managing Editor

It took two votes and a bit of persuasion, but the Laurel County Fiscal Court voted Thursday to accept the Communication Center’s interlocal agreement and keep 911 dispatch operating for the county and the city of London.

On the first vote, only magistrates Roy Crawford and David Westerfield voted to accept the agreement, with Tom Baker, Jeff Book, David Bruner and Noah Baker voting against.

But Judge-Executive Lawrence Kuhl informed the magistrates that without an interlocal agreement between the county and London, the 911 dispatch center would be forced to close — something some magistrates were apparently unaware of. The dispatch center, Kuhl said, handles calls from the city, county, EMS, and area law enforcement.

Kuhl reminded the magistrates that the 911 surcharge on home phone lines was recently increased to $2.50 to pay for future costs of 911 dispatch center.

“That’s well and good the court increased (the surcharge) to $2.50, but their salaries have been increased way above the other county employee salaries,” Tom Baker said, adding that some dispatch employees were making $65,000 with salaries and other payments.

“You get what you pay for, sir,” said London Mayor Troy Rudder, who was in attendance. “The one (employee) you’re talking about, he’s probably been there 30 years.”

Salaries of the communication center’s employees are determined by an overseeing board, appointed half by the fiscal court and half by the city.

“If you don’t trust their judgement, replace them,” Rudder said.

Rudder said dispatch was losing employees who feared the center would shut down. Rudder and Kuhl said the center was established in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

Tom Baker said he felt employees in other departments were paid too little compared to some of the dispatch supervisors.

“Those dispatchers have to be not only qualified, but certified by the state,” Rudder said. “They have a different job, they have a job that saves lives. Do whatever you think is right.”

The vote passed the second time, with only Tom Baker dissenting.

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