March 5, 2012. At the Watauga Intergovernmental Retreat on the campus of ASU, Watauga County Commissioner Vince Gable, as he has in the past, spoke in favor of a consolidated dispatch and pressed other municipalities in the county to jump on board.
“We are now in a posture to go ahead and do it, and we are inviting everyone to have a seat at the table and take part in this,” Gable said. “Sooner or later, I think it will have to happen.”
Currently, BeechMountain, Blowing Rock and Boone police departments and the Watauga Sheriff’s Office have dispatch centers. Gable said that the Town of Blowing Rock has passed a resolution – depending on the budget – to consolidate with Watauga County with plans to implement the system in July. Gable added that the Town of Boone could be implemented into the standalone county agency by the fall of 2012 – if Boone wished to do so.
In the past, the Town of Boone has been reluctant to consolidate, and comments from Boone Police Chief Dana Crawford after the Intergovernmental Retreat alluded to the same hesitant feelings of the past with not wanting to reduce services to the residents of Boone.
“I think [the Boone Town Council] will be looking at [consolidated dispatch] all through our budgeting process and retreats going forward and will look real close and start crunching the numbers,” Crawford said. “One thing we really want to look at it is to make sure we aren’t shortchanging our citizens. We don’t want a reduction of services.”
After the retreat, Boone Town Council Member Lynne Mason said that she is “all about efficiency,” but added that she isn’t making a decision because she is still gathering information and considering data.
Along with efficiency of coordinated communication, Gable cites the cost savings as one of the positive aspects of consolidated dispatch. (The N.C. 911 Board is seeking to pass legislature mandating, among other things, that dispatch centers staff two dispatchers and one supervisor at all times—24 hours a day, seven days a week.)
Apparently, the Watauga County Commissioners expected higher savings with an initial upfront cost because Gable said, “At first blush, we aren’t realizing the savings we thought we would have, however when we first started this we thought it would be two or three years before anyone would receive any savings.”
He added that, “It’s better than going in the whole [at the beginning].”
Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque spoke of the cost savings during his presentation at the retreat. He said if Boone, Blowing Rock and Watauga County dispatch centers were all consolidated then Boone would see a roughly $55,000 in savings per year and Blowing Rock $82,000 in savings per year. In the proposed consolidated dispatch budget, the budget would be split in proportion to CAD (Computer Added Dispatch) call figures, leaving Watauga County with 46 percent, Boone with 38 percent and Blowing Rock with 16 percent of a proposed $1.1 million budget.
Gable finished his presentation by saying that he is putting together an advisory committee for those entities with a desire for a consolidated dispatch.
For a November High Country Press article about consolidated dispatch, click to http://www.highcountrypress.com/weekly/2011/11-03-11/should-local-agencies-consolidate.htm.