Proposed 911 merger sparks debate in Floyd County and New Albany

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) -- A New Albany city councilman said he was told to call a different number after dialing 911 and is now proposing to merge the city’s call center with the county’s system.

Councilman Dr. Al Knable said combining Floyd County 911 with New Albany's center would improve response times. He said he called 911 when he heard a fire alarm going off several weeks ago.

Knable said he did not ask to be transferred and realized it was a false alarm before the call went further. 

“I was downtown, but it evidently sent me to the county dispatcher, and they said no, I would have to call the local authorities and gave me the number,” Knable said.

New Albany Police Chief Todd Bailey said the two 911 call centers work well together and are in constant communication.

“Almost on a daily basis, we transfer calls between each center," Bailey said. "We never ask anybody to hang up and call the other center."

Bailey said a merger is not in the best interest of New Albany residents, and in previous arrangements with the city, the county has not lived up to its financial obligations.

“The notion that there’s some emergency need, suddenly, to merge these centers is just false, and it’s unnecessary,” Bailey said.

Floyd County Sheriff Frank Loop supports a merger. He believes it could save money and improve communication by putting dispatchers in the same room.

Indiana is considering a bill that would distribute 911 funding based on the amount of calls.

Loop acknowledged that New Albany does handle more calls and the county could lose money but said a merger is about safety and not which entity operates the system.

"All of the funding would go to a merged 911 center, so I don't know that that would matter," Loop said.

Bailey said, by law, you have to operate a backup 911 center. So if you combine everything, you would still have the expense of running two operations.

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