Tension continues regarding dispatch

By: 
Alexis Barker

Alexis Barker

NLJ News Editor

 

The tension between the Newcastle City Council and the Board of Weston County Commissioners regarding dispatch services provided by the city are ongoing. Newcastle Mayor Pam Gualtieri and Councilman Don Steveson attended the Jan. 18 commissioners meeting to address the issues with dispatch services. 

“From the discussion, I see we are not even on the same page. I thought I would come in and answer questions and clarify some things. That is why I asked to be on the agenda,” Gualtieri said, referring to a conversation with Commissioner Don Taylor after the commissioner’s Jan. 4 meeting. 

She explained that the city is still planning to relocate the Newcastle Police Department and dispatch operations to City Hall. She said she is unsure, however, if it will be accomplished by March 8. According to Gualtieri, the city is waiting on bids for a server room. 

Regarding a joint powers board to oversee dispatch operations, the mayor said, the city is not currently considering that option but it is not completely off the table for the future. 

As previously reported, the commissioners and the town of Upton are in favor of creating a joint powers board to run dispatch. They have said multiple times over the past year, during discussions, that a joint powers board would give all stakeholders a say in the way dispatch is run and avoid one agency having leverage over others. 

Gualtieri also addressed the commissioners’ concerns that updated technology and systems have not been put to use. Taylor specifically questioned if any of the original issues with dispatch services had been addressed to date. 

“I think we are all concerned with the issues, but those were with the radios not [dispatch’s operating system]. It turned into the system and we want this and this and this,” Gualtieri said, noting that equipment to put the updates into place has been ordered. 

Despite any movement toward resolving everyone’s concerns and developing a contract that all entities can agree on, Taylor maintained that he thinks more should have been accomplished in the year and a half since the issues first came to a boiling point. He noted that if the county is not comfortable with continuing to work with the city after all this time, then the county is in a bind if it lacks a dispatch service or the equipment and personnel to operate its own service. 

“If we don’t use you, then two entities need to have the equipment,” he said. 

Taylor was adamant that he wants the city and county to have a good working relationship but he is concerned that they are “still putting lives in jeopardy.” 

“That is my problem. I am not questioning the negotiating. It’s that we haven’t changed anything from a year ago,” Taylor said. 

Upton Police Chief Susan Bridge clarified for the group that there has been a “great increase in positive things taking place,” but that concerns with radios still arise. 

“With all technology these days, you have to reboot sometimes,” Gualtieri said, explaining that dispatch tech personnel are doing their best to address issues as they arise, including the regular rebooting of the server system. 

“They have been really good at notifying us when it is going to occur,” Bridge said. “They pay attention to the time so (that) it’s during low call times.” 

Bridge noted that the problems are being addressed and worked on while Police Chief Sam Keller, Sheriff Bryan Colvard and she are negotiating the agreements and guidelines for dispatch services. 

Gualtieri assured the commissioners that the city is dedicated to providing services for the entire county, despite any disagreements or tension. 

“Newcastle’s priority is the whole county,” she said. “When it comes to the radio issues, we are working on them. When it comes to the dispatch issues, we are working on them. Our priority is the people of the county. We may not be on the same page and disagree, but the people of the county are the priority and I can tell you wholeheartedly our dispatchers feel that way, too.” 

To that, Commissioner Nathan Todd asked whether Gualtieri and the city ever considered that the issues are a county issue and not a city of Newcastle issue. 

“Maybe it (dispatch) should be under an elected official of the county. … Everyone in the county would get a say, a vote in the game,” Todd said, noting that this could be another potential option for the joint powers board. 

“Once we do that, then the leverage is given to him (Colvard),” Steveson said. 

“That is why a joint powers board was suggested,” Taylor concluded.

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