Councilman Bill Estes said he liked an idea pitched by At-Large Councilmen George Poe and Richard Banks, but he wanted to wait until April 8, when a cost analysis study is expected to be presented to the Council.
Poe has been an outspoken proponent of the city having its own dispatchers so the Police Service Center would be occupied 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
He has said in the past that police stations should be safe havens or places of refuge. However, that is not the case in Cleveland after regular business hours.
The inter-local agreement reached in October 2007 committed each to contribute $450,000 plus 50 percent of the budget beyond that. The contract was renewed in 2011 and is now set to expire in October 2015. Either party can drop out at any time.
At-Large Councilman Richard Banks said the county did not contribute more than the basic rate of $450,000 this fiscal year. In the meantime, the 911 Center fell into the “at-risk” category and faces the possibility of being run by the state.
“It puts us at a disadvantage for budget purposes for us to say we’re going to approve the $142,000 extra dollars they need to not be on this at-risk list and then have them say in July they are not funding it,” he said.
“It makes us all look bad. I would think a letter from the mayor to County Mayor D. Gary Davis, who is also the mayor of Cleveland taxpayers since he’s the county mayor, suggest that they have their finance committee make a commitment about 911 either way.”
Banks suggested the Council put the ball in the county’s court. If the county commissioners don’t agree to fund the call center, then the city could gear up to dispatch their own services, including an ambulance service.
Poe said now is the time to re-establish a city 911 system since the consolidated call center’s equipment needs upgraded to handle “Next Generation” calls.
“I feel like now would be the time to look into having our own 911 system like we used to have,” he said.
Police Chief Wes Snyder was not as convinced two systems was a good idea.
“I can’t answer that with a short answer,” he said. “To understand that, I think it would be to your benefit to take a look at the 911 Center and see how it operates.”
The police department receives an average of 5,000 to 6,000 calls per month and 60,000 in a year.
“What is critical for us is that response time,” he said. “If that dispatcher can take that call and get us there as quick as possible, that’s the key to the whole system. I don’t know how to answer that.”
He suggested Poe visit the center and observe how data transfers. Seven or eight minutes doesn’t sound like much, “but think about what can happen in a matter of five minutes waiting for someone to get there. That’s the challenge in my world.”