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NPR will explore dispatching consolidation

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NEW PORT RICHEY -

Dispatchers from the New Port Richey police and fire departments would transfer to the Pasco County 9-1-1 system under a dispatch consolidation proposal city officials are considering.

New Port Richey City Council members will explore the idea after discussion at a Tuesday night work session. They could see potential benefits in improving safety of officers and firefighters, stabilizing the city’s fire insurance rating and reaping a small amount of savings by the second year if consolidation takes place.

“This is not a takeover,” Pasco Chief Assistant County Administrator Michele Baker emphasized as she began her presentation to city council members.

In 2012, New Port Richey answered 9,010 emergency calls to 9-1-1, Baker noted. More than half of those calls, 4,943, came from cellphones.

Since only the county handles wireless calls, Pasco dispatchers had to transfer the cellphone calls to city dispatch.

Five cities using independent radio systems is impractical, Col. Brian Head, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office second-in-command, said.

In one instance, Head recalled, a deputy found himself in dire need of help about a block outside the Dade City limits. A nearby city police officer was unaware of the deputy’s predicament. County dispatchers called city officials to relay a message to the police officer.

“The public doesn’t see the difference in uniforms,” Baker said. Safety of officers and firefighters motivated a consolidation committee, although there could be some cost savings. The city could save about $90,000 a year by 2015.

The county is upgrading its computer-aided dispatch network and records-management system, Head said. City staff is researching the cost of a new records-management system if the city rejects consolidation.

The CAD system at New Port Richey Police Department is antiquated, interim Chief Kim Bogart told council members. City staff is researching the cost of new records management software if the city opts out of consolidation.

If the city goes along with consolidation, four full-time police dispatchers would transfer to the county system with their pay, seniority and benefits intact, Bogart said.

The police department, however, also employs eight part-time dispatchers, Bogart said.

Councilman Bill Phillips asked about the city’s fire rating by the Insurance Services Office, which affects premiums on property insurance rates of residents.

City Fire Chief Alex Onishenko reported that the ISO has counted off several points on the city’s evaluation in recent years because of aging communications equipment.

The city still enjoys a very good rating of 3 on a scale of 10, Onishenko explained. That rating could slip more in the future, city officials fear, and raise premiums.

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