The Smith County Commissioners Court, shown meeting in February, includes (from left) Commissioner Jeff Warr, Commissioner Terry Phillips, Judge Nathaniel Moran, Commissioner Cary Nix and Commissioner JoAnn Hampton. (Sarah A. Miller/Tyler Morning Telegraph/File)

Smith County officials have renegotiated and signed new contracts for local entities to use the dispatch services of the sheriff’s office.

The Smith County Commissioners Court approved the new contracts with nine local government entities at a meeting Tuesday.

The contracts are with the cities of Arp, Bullard, Troup and Whitehouse; Emergency Service Districts No. 1 and 2; Arp Independent School District; Bullard Independent School District; and Winona Independent School District.

“We spent several months and lots of meetings with all of these groups in one room talking about how to handle our dispatch services agreements so that we were all on the same page and all working under the same formula,” County Judge Nathaniel Moran said.

The fiscal year 2020 budget estimates that the county will bring in $235,583 from the new interlocal agreements. That’s a 41% increase over the $167,500 that the county received from the agreements in fiscal year 2019.

Smith County dispatch rates

Entity FY 2020 Price
Arp $5,000
Arp ISD $500
Bullard $33,676
Bullard ISD $1,500
ESD No. 1 $5,368
ESD No. 2 $107,650
Troup $18,764
Whitehouse $61,125
Winona ISD $500

The demand for dispatch services through the Smith County Sheriff’s Office has increased in the past several years. School districts have asked for the dispatch services because it is a preliminary step to creating a police department.

Budget analyst Paul Feltes said he consulted with the Texas Association of Counties to compare Smith County’s practices to Brazos and Bell counties. He said he learned that practices across the state vary widely.

“I learned their processes and took pieces from the way they do their practices, and then of course I analyzed the call data and developed some different options for the different agencies, and then Judge and I met with the different agencies,” Feltes said.

He said the local entities are being asked to pay a portion of the salary, wages and benefits of the Smith County Sheriff’s Office’s dispatch department, but not for the operating or capital costs.

The new costs will be phased in over four years. The amount in the upcoming year will be about half of the costs, Feltes said. The contracts run through 2023.

Additionally, ESD No. 2, which administers 11 volunteer fire departments, volunteered to pay a higher rate per call than the other entities, and asked for the county to hire an additional dispatcher.

Moran said leaders in ESD No. 2 realized that the nature of their calls tend to be fires, which are more complicated and time-consuming than routine traffic stops that are common among other government entities, therefore costing more money.

“Instead of us trying to deal with one entity at one time and one entity at another time, getting them all around the table helped us to get a consensus about how to move forward, so that was by agreement from everybody,” Moran said.

He added that the four-year contracts will give the dispatch departments certainty and clarity moving forward with dispatch services. He said the amount each entity pays would roughly double over the contract term, but still be below the county’s true cost of services.

“We recognize that there’s benefit in that partnership,” Moran said. He said having the nine entities dispatched in one place means “we can coordinate, as opposed to them choosing other entities, which some of them have other choices, since they’re on the boundary line of Smith County.”

TWITTER and INSTAGRAM: @_erinmansfield

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