Council debates dispatch issue

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 12, 2001

Ironton City Council took another look at the future of the Ironton Police Department’s dispatch Thursday in an effort to correct a $100,000 city budget shortfall.

Friday, January 12, 2001

Ironton City Council took another look at the future of the Ironton Police Department’s dispatch Thursday in an effort to correct a $100,000 city budget shortfall.

Email newsletter signup

No action was taken to correct the shortage, but council members quizzed both dispatchers and police officers on several issues that could prove to finalize the decision.

At least four police officers, chief Rodney McFarland and three dispatchers urged council to rethink cutting the dispatch.

City council’s Finance Committee members are still looking at the city’s 2001 operating budget after council decided to add money back into the police department temporarily to keep the dispatch.

"I just want everyone to know how many hours we’ve worked on this issue," councilman Leo Ulery said. "Yes, we need dispatchers and police officers, but we’re between a rock and a hard place and this has to come out of the general fund."

Ulery said any "cutback" decision would be tough but is essential in keeping the city’s budget balanced.

"The bottom line is we can’t appropriate funds we don’t have," he said.

IPD dispatcher Sharon Webb said cutting the dispatch from the police department would create problems for the city.

"We’re here for our jobs," she said. "We’ve done numerous hours of research to show 911 is not always the way to go. We have nothing against (Lawrence County 911 director) Don Mootz or his dispatchers, but we question if they will be able to perform our current workload."

She questioned who would take care of police bonding, towing vehicles and rummage sale money if the dispatch is abolished, and who would maintain arrest logs, minor theft and stolen automobile reports?

Council members questioned Mootz about what 911 could and could not do if his department were to take the dispatching job.

"I’m not here to be critical of anyone, these ladies are my friends," Mootz said. "I’m not here to take anyone’s job, but I don’t want the public to view us as being incompetent or incapable of doing the job."

Dispatchers at at 911 are qualified, and can handle the dispatching of police, but the 911 system is not soliciting the city’s work, he said.

Mootz also said the 911 system answers more than just the "life-threatening" calls, but his department would be limited as to what they could do.

"We don’t have the capability of booking," he said. "We keep a caller history record, but we do not have access to criminal records through the NCIC system."

If his department were to take the dispatching for IPD, 911 would first need to obtain a 24-hour police dispatch certification before they would gain access to the police LEADS system, he said.

IPD Capt. Bill Garland said the LEADS system was "a critical part" of the police work.

"Many arrests have been made just by running a license plate number through the LEADS system," Garland said. "This system tells us if a person has a warrant on them and it gives us an idea of the people we deal with on the streets."

Council members asked the police department to submit ideas that may help save money and prevent possible layoffs of more police officers.

During city council’s Finance Committee meeting Wednesday, patrol officer Pam Neal suggested eliminating the departments investigative unit and designating an officer on each shift as a "field investigator."

"We already have qualified field investigators patrolling the city streets," she said.

Despite rumors, council chairman Jim Tordiff said the city has no immediate financial problems.

"We are on solid ground despite the rumors," Tordiff said. "Currently, all of our debts are paid, but if our economy doesn’t turn around, we are within a year or so of being in serious financial troubles."