The Chattanooga City Council had some serious questions about Hamilton County 911, and John Stuermer attempted to answer as best he could.
The main questions centered around Human Resources (or lack thereof) within 911, and where 911 stood in the county’s hierarchy, or if it was even part of it at all.
Councilman Russell Gilbert was the most vocal questioner among the council. One of his questions had to do with how much the city of Chattanooga paid in order to fund 911, even though he said the city did not benefit proportionally to how much taxpayers were putting in.
“The city is within Hamilton County, but a lot of times we don’t receive equal opportunities as the same amount of money we put in,” said Councilman Gilbert.
Mr. Stuermer responded by saying that the agency uses population as a leveling factor. That way, if one place has a poor year, the cost stays the same. He also noted 911 is “not part of Hamilton County. We are an independent entity. We get no funding from any agency, so this question is not really relevant to this discussion.”
Councilman Gilbert then shifted his attention to 911’s budget, motioning to a folder lying before him.
“I’m looking at your budget here,” he said, making note of the amount some employees were paying for insurance, “You’ve got some paying $23,000, and some paying much less.” Councilman Gilbert pointed out that while a gap of a few hundred dollars were normal within workplaces when it comes to insurance, amounts in the thousands of dollars could be considered extreme.
Councilman Gilbert also brought up complaints about the 911 HR department. He started by asking if 911 had an HR person.
“We have a full position under Hamilton County, which is our HR. We are a completely separate entity from them,” said Mr. Stuermer, “We have a person acting as a liaison for the HR department for Hamilton County.” So while 911 does not have an official HR person, Mr. Stuermer assured the council that the person they do have was able to function in the same way an official HR person would.
Councilman Gilbert responded that when a Hamilton County employee spoke with 911, they found that they were not treated in a satisfactory way by the 911 HR staff.
“I have to respectfully disagree that the person was handled inappropriately,” said Mr. Stuermer, “I believe it was handled appropriately. It’s a personal opinion, and I’ll have to disagree with that.”
However, Councilmen Chip Henderson, Jerry Mitchell, and Anthony Byrd still had concerns.
Councilman Byrd said, “I’ll sit at some of the meetings, and I didn’t appreciate how our HR person was treated (during a previous meeting). At this point, we’re paying this money (in taxes) so they can get that service, and those employees are our people, so they can get their treatment fairly. If we’re paying the taxpayers’ money, then we need someone who is going to have their back.”
Councilman Henderson, saying he supported Councilmen Gilbert and Byrd’s plea to implant a real HR person in 911, so that any complaints or issues employees may have would be dealt with in a professional manner.
“To me, that’s not fair to people we still have on payroll, and are being treated the way they’re being treated,” said Councilman Henderson, “We have an obligation to these people. In my opinion, they should have a person who is officially in HR.”
By the end of the meeting, not much had changed, and Mr. Stuermer closed out the meeting with a final remark in support of the current method.
“I think we do a great job, and I think personnel is part of the commitment to that. If this committee or this council desires, we can look at other options, and then we can sit down and look at it. We give this city service that is exceptional, and we have a commitment to that. Our policies are very much in line with any high-quality service.”