At a budget workshop held in Town Hall on Tuesday evening, the Surry County emergency services director revealed to commissioners that if he were living in Elkin, he would not want the Elkin Police Department to pass its emergency calls to the county.
The stunning revelation by John Shelton, director of Surry County Emergency Services, catapulted commissioners to restore funding of two evening communications dispatchers for the Elkin Police Department who were on the chopping block.
Shelton’s comments backed a stance taken by Elkin Police Chief Monroe Wagoner, who recently revealed he did not support the transfer of 911 calls to the Dobson facility, nor did he support the elimination of two dispatcher positions or the locking of the police department lobby doors at night.
At a June 9 public hearing on the 2014-2015 budget, residents pounded the podium after learning of the proposed changes. Jolted by the turnout, commissioners agreed to conduct a third budget workshop to reconsider the dispatcher service, funding for the Elkin Public Library, elimination of a leaf and limb employee, and hiring a structural engineer for the Rock Facade in downtown Elkin.
“You have an excellent police department and they do an excellent job. All of your folks have been team players,” said Shelton.
Shelton explained the processes with technology and the handling of emergency services of similar-sized municipalities.
Shelton was asked by Commissioner Skip Whitman that if he were a citizen of Elkin, would he prefer for the Elkin Police Department to keep answering its own 911 calls or have calls handled by Surry 911.
“Keep it like it is. If I were living here, I would want to keep it the way it is. It’s an honest answer,” said Shelton, who received a thunderous applause from the residents in attendance. In the rear of Town Hall, the communications team of the Elkin Police Department smiled. Wagoner had crossed his arms and and nodded in support of the statement.
According to Shelton, troubled times are ahead for emergency services and there are many unknown variables. Shelton said the cost to handle the calls would be in excess of $93,000. He also indicated the county would always be prepared to take on emergency calls.
“We have gone through lots of changes with what we do. When the sky is falling you have to have a team ready… I think the best thing to do for you is to make the backbone stronger,” he said. “Would you get the personal touch? I would have to say that it works better for you to do it on your own.”
Anthony Gonzalez may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @newsgonz.