It will apparently not be a joint meeting like was held before but a couple of Liberty Town Council members have been invited to attend the Friday, Dec. 6 Union County Commissioners' meeting to discuss the town's 911 funding.

Commissioners discussed the need for a meeting with Barry Ritter, vice president of Ritter Strategic Services LLC in Hagerstown, at the commissioners' Nov. 2 meeting.
A joint meeting would have to be advertised in advance while if less than a quorum of LTC members come to the commissioners' meeting, then there is no need for a pre-meeting advertisement, according to Indiana's Sunshine Law.

Ritter told the commissioners the interlocal agreement between the county and the town has been in existence for 35 years having been signed in 1984. In it, the town agreed to pay 25 percent of the cost for the 911 dispatchers.

According to Ritter, in many instances, the town does not pay anything in agreements with counties over the 911 system.

“You're very fortunate, because across Indiana when the legislature mandated the consolidation of PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Point), counties began to consolidate.” Ritter said to the commissioners. “You were already operating in that environment. But a lot of municipalities do not pay a county government for a dispatch center to operate. There is no statutory requirement for them to do that. You are very fortunate that they do pay the 25 percent today. As we look at those call statistics and we look at budgets we want to be reasonable of what we are asking for from a county perspective and based on the services provided to the town.”

Commissioner Howard Curry asked Ritter what other communities do. Ritter said there are all kinds of different models from a town paying nothing to paying 50 percent and everything in between.

Commissioner Tim Williams said and Ritter agreed in Rush County, the county has its own dispatch and Rushville has its own dispatch.

“I believe the county pays for all the 911 equipment, but the City of Rushville pays for the operational expenses like dispatchers,” Ritter said. “Under Indiana law today, you can't do that.”

They are grandfathered in, Ritter said.

At the Liberty Town Council meeting held Monday evening, Nov. 4, council decided to send at least two council members to the Dec. 6 meeting but did not designate who the two council members will be.

In other 911-related news, Ritter said there is a problem with the insurance in covering the lightning strike that destroyed the communication center's radios.

Ritter said he recently talked with the insurance adjuster.

“They have not received any certification or documentation that a lightning strike occurred,” Ritter said.

What the insurance company has received is an inventory of equipment destroyed and damaged by the lightning strike, Ritter said.

According to Ritter, the insurance adjuster is sending an electrical engineer from Cincinnati to meet with Ritter and Jenny Brown, the county's 911 director. Ritter said because the adjuster has no certified claim or proof a lightning strike occurred, there is not a valid claim for a loss.

Thus, Ritter said it is not known if the insurance will pay anything let alone how much. Replacing the damaged radio equipment will carry a significant price tag. But he said the first priority is to prove to the insurance company a lightning strike did occur, and it did damage the equipment.

While the situation at the communications center is not ideal, Ritter described it as operating on a paper clip, it is still operating and the public is being well served, he said. One major problem is there are no redundancies for the equipment being used.
Not surprisingly, this did not sit well with Williams. He said Electronics Restoration Services, an Indianapolis company, said it was a lightning strike, Williams said.
Ritter said the company did say that. However, what the company sent to the insurance adjuster was a list of electronic equipment that was damaged but not what caused the damage.

“Everyone seems to say it was a lightning strike, but no one has definitively written it and that is the problem,” Williams said.

He said even the insurance company said to check and make sure all the communications towers near the jail are grounded.

Brown said she believed ERS was supposed to send an affidavit to the insurance company saying the damage was due to a lightning strike.

Williams said in his talks with the company, the company was sure the damage was caused by a lightning strike; however, the company could not ascertain where it entered the jail, which is where the dispatchers are located.

“I'm a little frustrated,” Williams said.

Ritter suggested emailing ERS and asking if the company has the affidavit.

If it does, then ask the company to forward the affidavit to the insurance adjuster.

Williams said he is concerned at this point if there will be adequate proof of when it happened and where it happened.

Ritter said the insurance adjuster told him there is documentation there was lightning in the area on the day of the loss.

Williams said if the county's insurance company will not pay when there is a legitimate claim, the county should look for another insurance company.

“I'm not paying full premiums and not getting anything back,” Williams said. “That's how I deal with my car and my house. I'm not going to pay you money, and when I need you, you're not there.”

Ritter defended the insurance company.

“Their protocols require these steps to be taken, and they haven't been taken,” Ritter said. “She's trying to clean this up off her docket.”

They also discussed the recent $108,000 grant the county received to help pay for a new Computer Aided Dispatch also called Computer Assisted Dispatch (CAD) system.

He said the county must pay the money needed for the CAD system up front and then it will be reimbursed up to 60 percent of the cost.

However, Ritter said the radios are the priority.