The People's Tribune

Panel On Centralized 911 Presents Recommendations To County Commission

Commissioners Plan To Hold Town Hall Meeting To Seek Input From Citizens

Efforts to consolidate 911 services in Pike County took another step forward last week.

The panel working on the matter voted to recommend to county commissioners and residents that a ballot initiative, with an appropriate tax levy, be placed before voters to establish an independent, elected board, separate from the operations of the Sheriff’s Office, to oversee all 911 and emergency service dispatching for the county.

The motion was made by Louisiana Mayor Bart Niedner. Eastern District Commissioner Justin Sheppard abstained while all other members present voted in favor including Larry Beauchamp, Tylie Mills, Don Nacke, Kevin Keely, Mary Millan and Gale Frolos. Sheriff Stephen Korte and Tommy Beauchamp were absent for the meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 23.

Members of the 911 panel shared their recommendations with the county commissioners on Monday, Jan. 29. The commissioners indicated they wanted to do further research beyond what the appointed panel has done, particularly the expenses. They also decided to hold a town hall type of meeting to seek public input on the recommendation.

Korte noted that he was unable to attend the panel meeting last Tuesday but was present for the meeting with commissioners on Monday.

“I think it will be good to have all options presented to the public and get their input on this,” Korte remarked.

He added that it will be important to move forward slowly to make sure everything is done properly.

“We already have one taxing operation that in Pike County that works very well and people support it,” he explained. “We don’t want to run into problems. We want to avoid the pitfalls like the ones our neighbors to the north are having [Ralls County],” Korte said.

Niedner also noted there is still a lot of work remaining, but that he is encouraged by the direction the panel is going.

“I am exceedingly pleased that the panel was able to speak with a strong, single voice regarding the structural direction we recommended – namely an independent board separate from the Sheriff’s office,” Niedner remarked. “Many of us recognize that this vote came to the panel a bit sooner than we would have liked, but we felt it was necessary to get our position out there in response to growing public conversation on the topic.”

Niedner added the panel needs to assemble an accurate determination of costs to attach a responsible funding solution.

The panel has discussed a levy of between a quarter-cent to a half-cent sales tax. Niedner noted the town hall meeting to discuss the process and recommendations will be key in raising awareness and getting feedback.

“Our meetings continue to be constructive and candid – not always easy.  I am very proud to be serving Pike County with such dedicated panel members.  Our citizens have been waiting a very long time to see advancement on this important public safety topic.”

Niedner said that despite some highly charged conversations, panel members have recommitted to working constructively together and staying focused on what’s best for Pike County.

“ To that end, I fully support the decision to have the costs and a public meeting before the Commissioners take formal action.”

The next 911 panel meeting will be held on Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. A town hall meeting has not been set at this time, but may be scheduled at that time.

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