The Washington Times-Herald

November 15, 2012

Fire leads to 911 issues

By Tim Pinkham
Washington Times Herald

LOOGOOTEE — Due to a communications snafu, a Loogootee woman waited 40 minutes for firefighters Monday morning after calling 911 when she discovered a refrigerator fire in her home.

However, the delay was not due to the Loogootee Volunteer Fire Department, which responded immediately once it finally was notified, said Mayor Noel Harty during Tuesday night’s Loogootee City Council meeting.

Harty said when Lynn Baker called 911 on her cell phone, because of her location the call pinged off the Cannelburg tower and went to the Daviess County 911 center in Washington.

The mayor said during the initial conversation, the 911 dispatcher failed to ask Baker what city she was calling from, and Baker didn’t offer the information. First responders were initially dispatched to Plainville and then to Washington. He said it was not until the third conversation between Baker and the dispatcher when her address in Loogootee was given. That is when the proper authorities were notified.

Harty said he first heard what happened Monday morning when Baker called him. The mayor then called the Daviess County Sheriff’s Department and left a message for Sheriff Jerry Harbstreit.

The sheriff returned the call later in the day. Harty said Harbstreit said he would get to the bottom of the situation and promised that such a communications problem would never happen again.

Despite the delay in responding, Harty said he believed only minor damage was caused by the fire.

Harty wants Loogootee residents to know that cell phone calls to 911 may be routed to Daviess County, especially if the calls are made from the west side of the city. Calls from the east side are likely to be routed by a different cell tower to the Martin County Sheriff’s Department in Shoals.

In other business, the council heard a fairly new city resident complain about a neighbor’s dogs that bark for hours on end. He said police have been called six times, and four times he observed officers going to the neighbor’s house.

Since the problems with the barking dogs has continued, the man said he was seeking guidance from city officials as to how he should respond.

The man’s appearance was timely, since earlier in the meeting the council unanimously approved amending the city’s animal ordinance, which targets nuisance animals. A first offense could bring a $25 fine, while each subsequent offense would result in fines increasing $25 each time until reaching a maximum of $100.

As for city employees, the council passed an amended city ordinance that requires both full-time and part-time workers to live within the city limits for at least the first five years of employment. After that, they may move outside the city, but must remain in Martin County. People living outside Loogootee may be hired if they agree to move to the city within 180 days.

Harty said the city was dropping its random drug testing policy concerning employees, because it seemed to select the same handful of employees each time and it was expensive to implement. However, drug testing will still be utilized if a department manager has reason to believe an employee has been using illegal drugs.

In other business,

The council heard from Matt Sward, from Southern Indiana Development Commission, concerning a grant application to the state to fund new furnaces and air conditioners for the annex building. The application is due Thursday, with the state expected to announce the grant recipients before the end of the year. He said SIDC will provide $5,000 in matching funds for the grant, as will the city with $5,000 from Economic Development Income Tax revenue.

• The council decided to leave the minimum age to operate golf carts in the city at 18, rather than dropping it to 17 or 16.

•The council approved a water conservation ordinance, which would take effect whenever natural or man-made conditions caused a temporary water shortage. The ordinance outlines various conservation measures to be taken once a water shortage has been declared. It also discusses mandatory conservation and the penalties for violating the ordinance.

•Councilman Rick Norris said the recent refinancing of the city bonds for the water and sewer departments will result in savings of  more than half a million dollars during the next 10 years.