In an effort to save money, Moniteau County Emergency Dispatch asked the Board of Aldermen on Monday to give the 911 call center a discount on its utility bill.
The board declined to offer the center a discount.
The center is not hurting financially, 911 Director Kevin Wieberg said. But in recent years, he said, the center has received a higher number of calls from the public concerning power outages in their homes, flickering lights, flooding of water in homeowners' yards, and other electrical, sewer or water issues.
While the center can take these calls, they require dispatchers to make additional calls to utilities to help the callers, which adds to an increased volume of calls at the 911 center. The non-emergency calls divert dispatching resources, leaving one out of two dispatchers connecting non-emergency calls with utilities.
In 2016, Wieberg said, the center received 112 calls for utility assistance. In 2017, 105 calls were answered, and in 2018, 151 calls were made.
"We are funded through the sales tax," Wieberg said. "But lately the sales tax has declined because online sales are on the incline and local sales are on the decline."
"Our utility bills can be anywhere from $400-$800 a month," Wieberg said. "We aren't financially hurting, we're just trying to be better stewards of the tax money and looking to better use that money."
He said the center should receive a discount on its utility bills in return for handling the utility calls.
Mayor Norris Gerhart disagreed, saying the 911 call center is a public service.
Wieberg responded, "We don't get a bill from the fire department or the police department or the ambulance district. We get a bill for utilities."
"We also work with utilities," Wieberg said. "So we're just looking to see if there is room for some sort of discount. One thing that sets us apart is that whenever someone has an issue, we're the one they call. Whether it be an issue with utility bills or water drainage, we provide that service, and we're happy to.
Since we provide that service for the city of California, we're looking to have some sort of discount on our utility bills," he said.
The board voted to decline to offer a discount.
"After spending much of the day working on the budget, we're looking for holes to find extra money, too," Gerhart told Wieberg. "We're tax based, so we have to look within those means."
In other action, the board approved a new training program for local lifeguards.
The training program will be through the International Lifeguard Training Program, said Leslie Scheidt, Parks and Recreation Department supervisor. For the first year under this contract, a trainer will be brought in from the Parks and Recreation of Chesterfield.
"We don't have the time this year to get one of our lifeguards trained," Scheidt said. "But after this year, we can send an interested lifeguard to train, so all of our training would be done in house."
Scheidt said the training program is more thorough than the American Red Cross certification.
"This one has better techniques and certification is only for one year, which is better," she said. "That way, we can stay more current."
Scheidt said Red Cross certification covers a lifeguard for two years and costs $165; the International Lifeguard Training Program offers annual certification for $55.
Once per year, a representative from the new program will visit the city pool and run an audit. They will watch the lifeguards and observe what is done during each shift. Once a shift is complete, the auditor will explain what was done correctly and what needs work. A basic skills test will then be given for the lifeguards to continue to improve.
An audit will not be done on California lifeguards this year, as no one is certified with the program yet.
In other business, the board:
Was told by Police Chief Shane Templeton the police department recently hired three new officers. The third officer was hired March 4. One position is still open, he said.
Raised the hourly wage for auxiliary police officers from $16 per hour to $18 per hour.