Harlan Council discusses sidewalk bids, insurance rating and dispatch pay

Posted at 4:00 PM on Monday, May 15, 2023

The Harlan City Council met for its regular May meeting recently, discussing numerous areas of city business, including bids for a sidewalk project and the city’s ISO rating, which affects the city’s fire insurance rates.

Mayor Joe Meadors brought up bids for city sidewalk work.

“We had to extend the sidewalk bid,” Meaders said. “These offers will not be opened until May 24th.”

According to Meadors, he hopes to receive an acceptable offer soon.

“We expect to have at least one good candidate, maybe more,” Meaders said. “I’ll be able to report back to you at the first meeting in June on who got the offer and when it will start.”

Meadors also updated the council on the current situation involving the city’s ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating.

“I talked to her (the ISO representative) and she called me back,” Meaders said. “I asked her to explain how we got to where we are. I told her about the letter we received that the body of the letter referred to the Harlan Township Fire Department but the letter went to the Mayor of Benham. The address in the letter was sent to Benham.

Meaders told the council he also asked if the city was responsible for fire hydrants on private property.

“She couldn’t explain why,” Meaders said. “I told her it makes the city responsible for things we have no control over. These are private fire hydrants; they are purchased and maintained by a private property owner. I don’t know how you can hold us accountable because they are in short supply. She couldn’t offer an explanation, and she certainly didn’t offer any excuses.

Meadors informed the council that an ISO representative is scheduled to be in Harlan on May 22nd to look into the issue.

“We’re going to try to resolve that,” Meaders said.

The council then addressed the staffing situation at the Harlan Township Police Department.

“We have a huge problem retaining dispatch personnel,” Meaders said.

Meadors mentioned that the position of dispatcher requires a reliable staff.

“You have to be there and you have to be able to do that job,” Meaders said.

Dispatchers must have the ability to properly relay information to emergency responders such as EMS and police, Meadors said.

Meadors explained that the Harlan Township Police Department also provides dispatch services for multiple agencies in Harlan County and is compensated for doing so. He suggested raising the dispatch service fee to help fund dispatch staff.

“Right now we’re collecting about $3,000 a month in shipping fees,” Meaders said.

Meadors said the Harlan Township Police Department also handles dispatch for the towns of Cumberland, the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office, Benham, Evarts and Loyall. He pointed out that the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office provides its own dispatch until 4 p.m

The City of Harlan has not yet raised the mailing fee.

“We’ve never charged more than we’ve charged,” Meaders said. “My recommendation is that we raise those rates by 20 percent.”

After some discussion, the board voted to raise the dispatch rate by 20 percent. The new rate will be fixed for two years.

“As part of that, we have to raise the dispatcher’s salary,” Meaders said.

After further discussion, the council approved a proposal to raise the minimum wage for dispatchers.

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