County offers city ultimatum

By: 
Alexis Barker

Alexis Barker

NLJ News Editor

 

Citing years of dissatisfaction with the city-run dispatch system, the Board of Weston County Commissioners has officially provided the city with a letter outlining its intent to terminate the dispatch and communications agreement and the county and city law enforcement city agreement in six months. The letter, dated Sept. 9, was drafted after an executive session, which referenced possible litigation, that included the county commissioners and representatives from the Upton Town Council. 

“During the past six months, the City of Newcastle, Town of Upton, Weston County and other emergency services agencies have been again actively meeting to discuss the possibility of forming a joint dispatch powers board,” the letter says. “The county was hopeful that these discussions would lead to the creation of a joint dispatch powers board where all emergency service agencies would have a more active role in making dispatch decisions and ensuring each agencies’ dispatch needs are being met.” 


 

“Unfortunately, in the last several weeks, the city’s actions have led the county to believe that the city is not interested in working cooperatively on dispatch service issues,” the letter continues. 

The letter specifically mentions the city’s decision to go with an update to the CAD/CIS system, as reported in last week’s News Letter Journal, instead of the Spillman System that had previously been agreed upon. It notes that the county was not included in the discussion nor were county officials invited to attend a demonstration of the new system. 

“Based on what appears to be a lack of interest by the city to work cooperatively on dispatch issues and concerns over the last several months, the county has no other option but to go in a different direction for dispatch services to county citizens,” the letter says. “In its current state, the county believes that dispatch services being provided by the City of Newcastle are not adequately addressing the needs of the sheriff and county residents.” 

The county also says that it has attempted, without success, to address concerns with the city. These concerns include not always prioritizing emergency and non-emergency calls, not always gathering and conveying necessary call information, not always tracking deputy locations and other concerns. 

“Given the repeated attempts at addressing these issues in various ways with no success, the county is at a crossroads,” the letter continues. “The county has attempted to work cooperatively with the city on various attempts since 2016. The county sees no other option but to move toward providing its own dispatch services to county residents at a level that the county believes is necessary.” 

The county provided notice of its intent to terminate both the agreement for dispatch services and the agreement for the city’s use of a portion of the law enforcement center. Although only 60 days’ notice is required for termination of the agreement, the county is allowing up to 180 days. 

“As a result, the termination notice/working new agreements period could go as long as March 8, 2022. In the event the city does not exhibit actions that indicate their willingness to work cooperatively, that period could be less,” the letter states. “Written policies and procedures appear to be necessary to ensure that everyone’s expectations and needs are being met. If a new agreement, with policies and procedures cannot be negotiated, the county is prepared to provide county dispatch and communications services to the county sheriff’s office and the county emergency management/homeland security.” 

This new agreement request applies to both the dispatch and law enforcement center agreements. 

“The county, absent some newly negotiated county and city law enforcement agreement, which addresses the county’s concerns and needs, would expect the city to vacate that space, no later than March 8, 2022. Additionally, the county would expect that all equipment, databases, and software would remain at the county facility as those items were purchased with county funds and homeland security monies,” the letter notes. 

The letter concludes that the county is hoping the city is willing to address the dispatch needs and work cooperatively despite past interactions between the two entities. 

“To that end, the county is inviting the City of Newcastle, and other emergency service providers, to a two hour meeting set on the county commissioner’s agenda for October 19, 2021, at 9 a.m., to hopefully commit to working cooperatively, and having a frank discussion as to how all Weston County residents’ dispatch needs can be met,” the letter says. “If the City of Newcastle chooses to not meet, or commit to those meetings and discussions, further and more immediate action will be taken by the county to move forward with its own dispatch service.” 

 

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