Harlan council discusses sidewalk bids, insurance rating and dispatch pay

Published 4:00 pm Monday, May 15, 2023

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

Mayor Joe Meadors brought up the topic of bids for work on the city’s sidewalks.

“We’ve had to extend the sidewalk bid,” Meadors said. “Those bids will not be opened until May 24.”

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

“We expect to have at least one good bidder, perhaps more,” Meadors said. “I’ll be able to report back to you the first meeting in June about who got the bid and when they’re going to start.”

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

“I talked to her (ISO representative), and she called me,” Meadors said. “I asked her to explain to me how we got to where we are. I told her about the letter we received, that the body of the letter pertained to the city of Harlan Fire Department, but the letter went to the Mayor of Benham. The address on the letter went to Benham.”

Meadors told the council he also asked about the city being held responsible for fire hydrants on private property.

“She couldn’t explain why,” Meadors said. “I told her this was making the city responsible for things we don’t have any control over. Those are private fire hydrants; they’re bought and maintained by the private property owner. I don’t know how you can make us responsible because they’re deficient. She couldn’t offer an explanation and she sure didn’t offer any apologies.”

Meadors informed the council an ISO representative is scheduled to be in Harlan on May 22 to address the issue.

“We’ll try to resolve this,” Meadors said.

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

“We’re having a tremendous problem keeping dispatch staff,” Meadors said.

Meadors mentioned the dispatcher position requires reliable personnel.

“You’ve got to be there, and you’ve got to be able to do that job,” Meadors said.

Dispatchers must have the ability to correctly communicate information to emergency crews such as EMS and police, Meadors said.

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

“Right now, we’re collecting about $3,000 per month in dispatching fees,” Meadors said.

Meadors stated the Harlan City Police Department also handles dispatching for the cities of Cumberland, the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office, Benham, Evarts, and Loyall. He pointed out the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office provides their own dispatching until 4 p.m.

The city of Harlan has not previously raised the dispatch fee rate.

“We’ve never charged more than we’ve been charging,” Meadors said. “It would be my recommendation we raise these rates by 20 percent.”

Following some discussion, the council voted to raise the dispatch rate by 20 percent. The new rate will be locked in for two years.

“As part of that, we’ve got to raise the dispatch salary,” Meadors said.

After further discussion, the council approved a motion to raise the minimum pay for dispatchers.