published Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Marion to build new 911 center

By Ryan Lewis

JASPER, Tenn.—When the Marion County Sheriff’s Office took over the dispatching duties for all the municipalities in the county, officials said they knew they eventually would have to expand the existing 911 facilities.

“Over the years, we’ve just outgrown the space that we’re in inside the [Marion County] Justice Center,” Sheriff Ronnie “Bo” Burnett said.

Last week, the Marion County Commission unanimously approved the construction of a new 911 center on an unused impound lot behind the justice center in Jasper.

Burnett said the proposed 1,600-square-foot building will be completely funded through 911 fees.

“It would pay all the costs, all the maintenance and everything,” he said. “[The building] would be no cost to the county.”

Officials did not share any estimated costs for the new facility, but Burnett said 911 has enough money to pay for it.

“We’ve been frugal with our funds,” he said. “We’ve watched over the money that they’ve given us until we’ve got a pretty good sum.”

At a time when some surrounding counties’ 911 centers are running into financial difficulties, Commissioner Les Price said he’s glad Marion County’s 911 funds will be able to handle the much-needed building without requiring any additional financial assistance.

Because the county basically will be donating the property, County Attorney Billy Gouger said a clause will be put in the contract so the county can take back ownership if the building ever becomes vacant.

“By law, 911 can only spend their money on emergency communications purposes,” he said. “It’s called a reversion clause. If [the building] ever stopped being used for emergency communications purposes, it reverts back to the county whether it’s one year from now or 50 years from now.”

Gouger said the plan will have to be approved by Jasper’s planning commission before construction can begin.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com

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