SILOAM SPRINGS — City managers approved a resolution Sept. 6 creating an intergovernmental agreement with Benton County for Siloam Springs to operate its own 911 call center after state funding is cut.
Under the terms of the agreement, the state will provide the $240,000 to CENCOM, which handles 911 calls for rural Benton County, according to city administrator Phillip Patterson. CENCOM will then donate that amount to Siloam Springs on a quarterly basis so the city can continue to operate its public service response point, Patterson said.
“They don’t want to be responsible for the dispatch in Siloam Springs,” Patterson said. “What we want to do and what the county has agreed to do is enter into an intergovernmental agreement or enter [into a] local agreement and contract with the city of Siloam Springs to operate our 911 call center.”
Patterson did not say when the deal would take effect, but said consolidation plans must be submitted by January 1, 2023 and all consolidations must be completed by January 1, 2024.
The deal was made because of Arkansas Law 660, which not only replaced the Arkansas Telephone Emergency Services Board with the Arkansas 911 Board, but also required that the 911 board reduces the number of public service response points from 102 to 77, Patterson said.
Arkansas Law 660 was passed in 2019, Patterson said. The 911 Board’s original plan was to reduce the number of public service answering points to one per county for the state’s 75 counties, plus one additional public service answering point for the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock , Patterson said.
“There were a number of reasons for reducing the number of PSAPs,” Patterson said. “But it seemed the driving reason for the state legislature was to reduce the transfer of calls from one PSAP to another.”
An example of a transfer was where a person called 911 and his call was picked up by a public service answering point and he had to be transferred to one or more other answering points for the call to be answered by the good municipality,” Patterson said.
The original plan was overhauled and the 911 Board increased the number of civil service response points from 77 to 79, which provided one more for Benton County and one for Washington County, said Patterson. After more discussion, it was agreed that the 911 Board would fund three public service response points in Benton County, Patterson said.
In April 2022, Patterson and the heads of other public service response points approached the 911 Board to fund four response points in the county, he said.
The 911 Board denied their request but left the decision as to which response point would be closed to individual municipalities, Patterson said.
Bentonville passed a bond issue in 2019 to build a new 911 call center and Rogers did the same in 2021, which prevented their response points from being reduced, Patterson said.
He also said both cities have a fiduciary responsibility to their citizens, and that Siloam Springs had the lowest call volume and cost the most to operate.
Patterson and heads of other public service response points met with County Judge Barry Moehring and reached an agreement to keep Siloam Springs operating, he said.
City council members expressed approval of the deal, citing the need for the city to have its own 911 call center.
Director David Allen said he had seen his whole life how the western part of the county was systematically ignored and that Patterson had tried his best.
“I have to hand it over to you for a no-win situation,” Allen said. “It’s the best situation in my opinion as long as the county agrees.”
Manager Carol Smiley said she believes the city needs its own public service response point and that’s the best that can be done. Manager Lesa Rissler asked how the city’s lack of dispatchers affects the deal.
Patterson said the deal would remain the same. He also said the city should still postpone calls to the county after a certain time of day.
City managers also approved:
• A Memorandum of Understanding with the Siloam Springs School District for School Resource Officers in the amount of $194,116.
• A resolution authorizing the property tax rate to be collected in 2023.
• Consecration of utility easements for 123 and 111 S. Oak St.
• Acceptance of the Department of Homeland Security Grant for Firefighters Grant Assistance in the amount of $60,326.
• A budget amendment for the Community Development Department for the early retirement payment for the Civil Obligations Clerk in the amount of $20,481.
• An ordinance rezoning the 2400 to 2600 block of East Kenwood Street.
• An ordinance creating a public services commission.