Dispatch still a concern

By: 
Alexis Barker

Alexis Barker

NLJ News Editor

 

The Weston County commissioners say they would like to see a joint powers board formed to oversee dispatch services in the county. Weston County Sheriff Bryan Colvard and Upton Police Chief Susan Bridge have been working with Newcastle Police Chief Sam Keller to address longtime concerns with dispatch services provided by the city.

On Jan. 4, Weston County Deputy Attorney Jeani Stone, Colvard and Bridge updated  the commissioners on where the group is in developing dispatch protocols and guidelines. Stone explained that Keller, Bridge and Colvard are meeting about four hours a month to talk about dispatch issues. 

“They are making headway, and we are hoping by the first of March we can come to you and say here are the recommendations as far as dispatch goes,” Stone said. “This is what we think will work and move things along.” 

The group is looking at how dispatch services will be provided in an efficient and effective manner through one dispatch center, Stone said. This includes, she said, establishing protocols for different entities through the use of a program called PowerPhone. 

PowerPhone, according to the company’s website, is an emergency call handling software company that
helps dispatchers ask better questions and relay information faster. 

“It is a system like a flip chart …, a computer program that you bring up when you have calls,” Stone said, noting that each department would have specific procedures and information that needs to be collected. 

In addition to new programming and procedures, Stone reported that the group is also asking for information on how e-911 funds are spent by the city so the group can designate those funds to basic dispatch needs in the tailored agreements. The group also plans to develop an inventory of equipment used by dispatch, what money it was paid with and who it belongs to. 

The goal is to have this information gathered and hammered out by the three entities so that a proposal can be introduced to Newcastle, Upton and Weston County. Stone said the idea is to have dispatch operations outlined, a complaint process agreed upon and agreements with more teeth for each of the entities to enter into. 

“My concern is that all this work could be
for naught. I would feel better if there was a joint powers board in place. That way every entity has a say in this,” Commissioner Ed Wagoner said. 

Commissioner Don Taylor expressed similar concerns, stating that he thought the original plan was to work toward a joint powers board to oversee dispatch services. Bridge and Colvard stated that they are both in favor of a joint powers board but that Newcastle is not interested but has not provided a reason why. 

According to Mayor Pam Gualtieri with the relocation of dispatch and the Newcastle Police Department, it may be sometime before the city revisits the joint powers board discussion. 

“They have made their decision, and they are moving forward,” Bridge said, noting
that the city is also relocating dispatch into the city office. 

“Keller is still entering into conversations on plans, procedures, protocols and consequences. That is what we have now.” 

Commissioner Tony Barton said that he is putting his trust in Bryan Colvard that he is doing what is best for the county. 

“I have the utmost confidence in [Colvard, Bridge and Keller] working together. I am saying the alternative is separate dispatch,” Taylor said. 

“I think, in this whole process, the board is not feeling very comfortable,” Chairwoman Marty Ertman said, noting that there has to be a contingency plan in case things don’t work out with the city. 

Taylor added that the county should start looking into the costs to get a dispatch service up and running in case things with the city go south. 

“The reason this is so painful right now is because there has been years of stuff not getting done. The agreements have not been updated in 16 years. There have been issues not addressed in years,” Stone said. “We will know by March that we have given our best, and we can stay on top of contracts moving forward.” 

According to Gualtieri, representatives from the city will be meeting with the commissioners during their Jan. 18 meeting to discuss the dispatch situation further. 

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