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Heflin council hears reason for higher dispatch fees

New policeman

Heflin police Chief A. J. Benefield, left, introduces the newest addition to the police department: Neale Morgan, 36, a former teacher.

HEFLIN — Cleburne County Emergency Manager Crystal Cavender told the Heflin City Council why the city's E911 dispatch fees will be higher for the next fiscal year Tuesday night during a joint work session and meeting.

Cavender said the Heflin’s tab is $75,755.62, or five percent higher than last year’s amount of $72,148.21. According to Cavender, the increases are needed due to the purchase of equipment, training of dispatchers and the creation of another full-time dispatcher’s position. Other increases include an increase in employees’ insurance, and insurance on the building/equipment. 

Heflin City Councilman Shannon Roberts questioned the five percent increase saying that Heflin has no capital improvement fund and is “in debt up to our eyeballs.”

Roberts said he wishes the increase from E911 would reflect the cost of living index.

“But if you’re saying five to six percent a year and our tax money is only going up two percent, we’re going into the hole and that’s not sustainable in the long run,” Roberts said.

“I’m trying to look after taxpayers,” said Roberts.

E911 board chairman Corey Cochran was at the meeting and reminded the council that there was no increase in last year’s E911 fees the city pays. He said that creating another full-time dispatcher’s position at E911 will eliminate the time and expense of training part-time employees who are “out the door” to take jobs elsewhere.

Cavender told the council that the E911 budget for the next fiscal year is $517,660.00 but the income from the state and dispatching fees is $505,428.00 leaving a deficit of $12,232.00.

City Clerk Shane Smith reminded the council that on Sept. 1 the Rebuild Alabama Tax will take effect and everyone who buys gasoline in the state will pay an extra six cents per gallon. Smith said that Heflin will receive $22,000 for the first year from the gas tax and that figure will increase incrementally each year.

The gas tax will go toward paving some of Heflin’s streets, according to Smith.

Smith said he is also writing a matching grant to obtain funds to improve the streets and roadways around the high school, middle school and elementary school. The $400,000 grant would require a 20 percent match from the city.

Some of the improvements would include crosswalks, repaving, restriping and caution lights.

Heflin police Chief A. J. Benefield introduced the newest addition to the police department.

Neale Morgan, 36, told the council he has a background in reconstructing accident scenes, drug recognition training and traffic homicide. Morgan said that law enforcement is his second career; he started his working life as a schoolteacher with a master’s degree in education. 

Upcoming council meetings:

Sept. 3 — work session

Sept. 10 — work session and council meeting

Sept. 24 — work session and council meeting

City offices and buildings will be closed on Labor Day.

Homecoming on Main is set for Sept. 19.

​Staff writer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @bwilson_star.