During the meeting to the Cannon County Commissioners, the contentious rant by Commissioner Bob Stoetzel regarding the Cannon County 911 Emergency Communications District was not only uncalled for, but legally incorrect.
The handling of calls for help and dispatching emergency service in Cannon County has improved with the creation of the 911 District in 2007 and the performance of the 911 call center under the supervision of Director Roy Sullivan has been greatly enhanced. Dispatch operators are now better trained to handle emergencies of all types including CPR certification to give life saving help via telephone. Dispatchers are more focused and capable compared with the days when all 911 calls were under the supervision of the sheriff’s department.
Dispatchers now work in a secure environment away from distractions of handling mundane duties such as routine phone calls to sheriff employees, jail visitation, office visits and distracting requests in the public lobby of the sheriffs office. For Bob Stoetzel to state that the sheriff’s department is more qualified to handle the 911 center because “the sheriff has the knowledge” is an arrogant misstatement and assumption that emergency calls only involve requests for law enforcement assistance. The Cannon County 911 Center handles all emergencies including fire emergencies, ambulance emergencies, medical first responder calls and search and rescue situations.
Commissioner Stoetzel also incorrectly stated that the sheriff is in control of the radio dispatching involving the 911 Center. That is simply not true.
The Tennessee Attorney General has issued an opinion that the responsibility lies with the 911 district in regard to dispatching all emergency calls county-wide if an emergency communication district is established, and if the board of directors of a county-wide communication district adopts a 'direct dispatch method' under T.C.A. 7-86-107(a)(1). Under those circumstances, then the emergency communication district itself would be responsible for dispatching all emergency calls county-wide. The Cannon County 911 District has established a direct dispatch method.
Furthermore the 2010 Communications Agreement under review and in the hands of each commissioner prior to the meeting for review also gave control to the 911 District. In that agreement under Section 5. “Authority over Communications & Employees” requires that both the City and the County invest the 911 District with authority over communications including exclusive authority over dispatching, which was effective on July 1, 2007. By approving that agreement, the county has contractually given control of the 911 Center to Director Roy Sullivan.
When the discussion of a new 911 radio tower began, Stoetzel appeared to be looking for a confrontation with Constable Jim Gibbs who had appeared before the Commission to make a public statement during the approval of the 911 Communications Agreement. Stoetzel asked Gibbs if he had any thing to do with the tower, which he did not. Constable Gibbs had appeared to just state for the record that Tennessee law required the 911 Center to handle law enforcement dispatching, and that Cannon County constables are law enforcement officers elected by the people and are public officers for the County and therefore was included in the 2010 Communications Agreement as they had been in 2007.
Clearly Director Roy Sullivan and the emergency communication district board are in charge of the 911 Center, and not the sheriff. Having established that, perhaps the interest and safety of the citizens of Cannon County can go forward utilizing all the law enforcement resources and emergency services available for the county without petty turf wars between political adversaries. It is time for us to all work together for the security and safety of the citizens of Cannon County.
The 911 Call Center has been progressively becoming more and more professional. You can just hear the professionalism in the manner in which the calls are handled. There are many FCC mandates being forced upon the County and Director Sullivan has been doing a good job dealing with those mandates. It is not the fault of Director Sullivan that we are in a recession and that funds from land line telephone 911 fees are less than expected. The money spent by Cannon County to support the 911 Center is money well spent if professional 911 call handlers and dispatchers save just one life.
(Article submitted by Constable Jim Gibbs)