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Pike County 911 Director Jim Porter

LOUISIANA – The director of Pike County’s recently launched unified emergency dispatch center reassured members of Louisiana City Council that sirens would not again fail to sound when needed in Louisiana, as they did as a tornado threatened on Friday, June 21.

Director of Pike County 911 Jim Porter appeared before the council Monday at the council’s invitation. He updated council members and attendees on the progress of the new agency, and the steps he had taken to keep last month’s “hiccup” from repeating.

“We’re in the process of training dispatchers. I’ve got some old dispatchers we’re retraining, and I’ve got some new dispatchers, and sometimes we hit some bumps in the road,” Porter said.

Porter showed the council a revised policy, which called for dispatchers to sound city sirens at the request of city officials. Porter said a dispatcher had failed to do so on June 21 after receiving a call from City Administrator Kelly Henderson.

“Its their sirens. If they want them activated, we activate them. Hopefully, we’ve got that solved,” Porter said.

Since consolidating the 911 system the number of calls for help through 911 has gone up significantly: from January-July 9 last year there 4,729 calls for service compared to 8,579 calls over the same period this year. This was to be expected, Porter said, as people learned about and learned to rely on the new system.

Porter also told the Council that Pike County 911 was beginning to look for a new, permanent location. It is currently based out of a double-wide trailer behind the Sheriff’s office in Bowling Green. The process would likely take several years as the system builds up its financial resources, according to Porter.

Porter also broached the possibility of taking over the city’s radio system: taking ownership and responsibility for another component of the county’s communication system before making improvements to the equipment. Mayor Marvin Brown called the proposal “intriguing.”

IN OTHER BUSINESS

The Council also heard from Finance Committee Chair Susan Fregeau on the city’s revenue situation. Fregeau told the Council that since their last meeting she had sat down with officials in the County Clerk’s office to discuss the process for putting a tax increase on the April ballot.

Fregeau also presented one of the numbers underlying the city’s financial fix: sluggish growth in the assessed value of city property. Louisiana’s assessed value has increased by 20 percent in the last 20 years, Fregeau said — a figure dwarfed by the increase in Bowling Green, where assessed values have doubled.

“In 20 years, our assessed value has not grown much, and that really calls for the need to increase that real estate tax on personal property so that we can continue to provide services,” Fregeau said.

Brown also told the Council that the owner of Stark Brothers had indicated the company was not interested at the moment in voluntary annexation, a process that would bring the business inside the city limits and expand the city’s tax base. Brown said the conversation would continue, and that involuntary annexation was probably not an option.

The council approved first reading of three amendments to the city’s ordinances: a set of regulations around the city’s trees, designed to make the city eligible for grants for tree care, amendments to the city’s rules around home occupations and a review and clean-up of the “allowable uses” chapter  of the city’s zoning code.

The city will need to begin paying $250 a month to continue to receive recycling services from the Sheltered Workshop of Pike County. The decision, Brown said, reflected the changing economics of the recycling industry after China, the world’s major processor of recycled goods, upped its standards  on incoming material.

Brown nominated Edna Dolbeare, James Griffith, and Carl Schmidt to three-year terms on the Library Board. All three were approved.

Send questions and comments to athorp@pikecountynews.com.

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