Monday, June 4, 2012
By Steve Stevens, President & CEO, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
In 2010, the Northern Kentucky Area Development District, Vision 2015 and the Northern Kentucky Chamber produced the report, “Connecting Communities”, a document outlining a study that recommended government services across our multi-county area that were most ripe for merger or consolidation. The reasons? Our organizations believed that great opportunity exists in our area to achieve cost savings, efficiency and more effective service delivery through effective merger in a variety of government services. Over the past several decades, the report highlighted that Northern Kentucky has built a track record of success of doing so in many areas.
Emergency dispatch (911) across Northern Kentucky’s three northernmost counties is conducted by multiple entities. It is believed that without compromising safety, better communication and response time could be achieved at a lower cost to taxpayers through merger. Our three Judge Executives of Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties dived into this project almost immediately and momentum picked up quickly after studies conducted to determine cost/benefits of merging and operational changes pointed clearly to achievable options. A region-wide system is most desirable, but before moving forward toward that goal, a smaller step is needed. Merging the three centers currently operating in Covington, Erlanger and Kenton County, appears to be the best first step to achieving success toward the goal.
Kenton County is the only county in Kentucky that operates three dispatch centers. All three entities have experienced challenges dealing with declining revenue generated through charges on declining numbers of land-based telephone lines and this leads to large subsidies from governmental budgets. In the case of Covington, the cost of running the 911 dispatch is approximately $2 million and is offset by only $800,000 in revenue, meaning that the City must find another $1.2 million in its budget to pay for it. Kenton County must subsidize its system by $650,000.
In early April, the City of Covington announced it would discontinue police and fire dispatch services. Kenton County was viewed as the likely entity to centralize the service and responded through an action of the fiscal court to agree to take over the service. We applaud the actions of Covington and Kenton County to take this progressive step. We want to encourage however, that the effort not end there. We look forward to being able to also applaud the City of Erlanger as they become part of the joint system. By creating a single entity for Kenton County, $750,000 in collective savings could be achieved on day one. Additionally, the community will receive numerous benefits, not the least of which is a more effective system of communicating emergencies to first-responders. Likewise, it will move us closer to establishing one centralized provider for our multi-county region and this is better for our businesses, our communities and our citizens.