E-911 Center may separate from county
Mary E. Hinds News Herald
The Loudon County Budget Committee is set to recommend to the full commission the Loudon County E-911 Center, which handles all emergency calls within the county, become a separate entity.

Under the proposal, E-911 would become an independent agency, but one that receives a large contribution from the county. 

Jennifer Estes, director of the Loudon County E-911 Center, along with E-911 Center board members Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider and Loudon Police Chief James "Bear" Webb came to the budget committee meeting to deliver a proposed budget for the agency if it becomes independent and to answer questions from the committee. 

The original funding request for the center was $600,000 but Estes told the committee after careful consideration the request was being pared down to $560,000.

The proposed budget given to the committee cites a slight decrease in anticipated costs for retirement benefits for E-911 employees from $22,600 to $22,000 and an extra $3,000 for payroll services for processing pay checks. The budget also lists no change in the cost of office supplies and fuel for vehicles but warns those prices might go up since the newly independent agency would not have access to county purchasing discounts. 

This proposed change was brought about by the need to secure a retirement plan for employees of the E-911 system. Employees in most counties in Tennessee, including Loudon County,  are members of the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS). TCRS is a pension plan that covers county and state employees, public school teachers and others who elect to join. 

Last year when Pat Phillips, president of the Loudon County Economic Development Agency (EDA) opted to cash out his pension plan and join TCRS, he discovered the EDA office along with the county planning office and E-911are not considered as county employees by the state and as such they are not eligible for the TCRS retirement program. These agencies are considered independent agencies that receive contributions from the county but are not departments of county government.

Loudon County Mayor Doyle Arp told the E-911 representatives it was important they "start talking to the cities (Loudon and Lenoir City)" to look for contributions to the agency since both use its services.

Committee member and Commissioner Don Miller suggested they "start right now" because it would be "a little bit of an uphill battle" to get contributions from the cities. He explained representatives of the cities may argue they already pay county taxes but it should be pointed out the cities account for approximately half of the calls to E-911.

After a discussion about the possibility of putting county commissioners on the E-911 Board of Directors, Miller moved the committee recommend to the full county commission the Loudon County E-911 Center become a separate entity providing the center and the county can come up with a written agreement by Jan. 1, 2010.

The committee voted in favor of the idea and it will be presented to the county commission when the rest of the budget is voted on.