LANCASTER — Emergency response officials from Lincoln and Casey counties are working toward a potential solution for a call-routing problem that sends about 1,300 Lincoln County phone customers to the wrong 911 dispatch center.
Bluegrass 911 Director Russ Clark said after a meeting with Casey County Judge-Executive Ronald Wright on Tuesday that Wright seems open to the idea of having his county's 911 service join the same Lexington-based phone network used by Bluegrass 911.
Bluegrass 911, which serves Lincoln and Garrard counties, has its calls routed through the Central Kentucky Phone Network. But calls on the 346 exchange in the Hustonville area sit on trunklines owned by Windstream Communications and are routed to Casey County instead.
Windstream wants to charge Bluegrass 911 about $660 per month to correct the call-routing issue, creating a nearly $8,000 annual cost the cash-strapped agency doesn't have the pockets to handle.
If Casey County joined the Central Kentucky Phone Network, it would effectively bypass issues with Windstream and allow the network's computers to route the calls appropriately.
There are no long-term costs for being part of the network, but there are start-up costs for new counties that join, including about $800 per month for approximately six months, Clark said.
But startup costs may not even be a factor if Casey can take advantage of a new round of 911 grant funds that are available now.
"Right now, we can probably work it in to get a grant where it won't cost Casey County anything to come into the network, so it'll kind of be a no-brainer for him (Wright) to make the move now," Clark said.
Wright and Clark are meeting again later this month to review more information about how the switchover could work.
Clark said if Wright agrees to the solution, the switchover could be complete "within the year."
Hustonville officials express concern
Hustonville Police Chief Fred McCoy told city council members Tuesday night he is concerned for elderly residents in the area like his mother, because delays in 911 response could mean the difference between life and death.
Hustonville Mayor David Peyton said if his wife’s elderly grandmother winds up needing 911, she may not even be able to speak to the Casey dispath to let them know she lives in Lincoln County.
“It may be all she can do to just call 911,”¿he said.
The delay in getting calls where they need to be can make local responders look bad as well, McCoy pointed out.
McCoy said he can respond to anywhere in Hustonville within two minutes of receiving a call. But if the call doesn’t get routed to him for 15 minutes because it went through Casey County first, then he winds up looking slow.
“That’s a whole lot of time wasted,”¿he said.
Peyton said he’s aware Windstream is “holding (Bluegrass 911) hostage a bit,” but trusts Lincoln County is doing what it can to remedy the situation.