HUSTONVILLE — When a panicked woman named Judy was connected with a Lincoln County dispatcher on Dec. 27, she told the dispatcher her 44-year-old diabetic husband had not been responsive for about 10 or 15 minutes.
"Bill is not breathing," she blurts out to the dispatcher on a recording of the 911 call. "My husband's not breathing."
When the dispatcher attempts to pinpoint the location of the emergency, the woman says, "I'm right on the edge of the Casey and Lincoln line."
"Are you in Lincoln or Casey County, sweetheart?" the dispatcher asks.
"It depends on where you're standing," the woman responds. "West Lincoln Rescue is who always comes for him when I need help."
After telling the woman to get her husband lying on the floor, the dispatcher tells the caller that West Lincoln Rescue and Casey County emergency responders will be sent her way.
"Casey County had me on hold," the woman responds.
The call from Norris Road, which crosses over the Casey/Lincoln county line at least once, is one example Bluegrass 911 Director Russ Clark has held up as evidence that something needs to change about 911 call-routing in the Hustonville area.
Clark said there are about 1,300 phone numbers on the Hustonville-area 346 exchange that belong to residences in Lincoln County. There are also about 300 numbers on the same exchange for residences in Casey County.
But as of right now, all 1,600 lines are routed to Casey County dispatchers when a 911 call is placed.
The extra time it takes for Casey County to determine that a caller is from Lincoln County and then redirect the call to Bluegrass 911, which serves Lincoln and Garrard counties, is an unnecessary and potentially life-threatening delay, Clark said.
In the case of the Dec. 27 call from Norris Road, EMS arrived at the house about 16 minutes after the woman was connected to Bluegrass 911. By then, the man had been unresponsive for around half an hour. Despite CPR efforts from a neighbor with medical training, the man did not survive.
The call-routing issues stem from the current telephone trunkline setup, in which Casey County pays Windstream Communications — the owner of the area's trunklines — a little more than $70 per month for the calls to be routed to its 911 dispatch.
911 calls from the exchange used to be split between the counties, but when Bluegrass 911 began having its calls processed by the Lexington-based Central Kentucky Phone Network a little more than a year ago, that setup wasn't maintained.
While everyone involved — Casey County, Bluegrass 911 and Windstream — agrees it would be better for calls to be split and routed appropriately again, the price tag of accomplishing it has become a sticking point.
Lee Elliott, staff manager of 911 for Windstream Communications, said Lincoln and Casey counties have three options for how Hustonville-area 911 calls can be routed.
There's the current setup, where all calls go to Casey County. The second option is for Lincoln County to take over Casey's current monthly service charge, in which case all calls from the exchange would head to Bluegrass 911.
Or Bluegrass 911 can pay Windstream an initial fee of $712 followed by recurring monthly fees of $660 to reprogram the trunklines and split the calls correctly between the counties.
Splitting the calls is a more expensive option because the current monthly charges paid by Casey County are set at a "grandfathered" rate no longer charged by Windstream on new accounts, Elliott said.
The new, higher charges aren't arbitrary — they're set through tariffs that Windstream must get approved by the government, said Scott Morris, Windstream spokesman.