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Longboat Key Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2013 4 years ago

Town will scrutinize 911 dispatch offer

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Longboat Key’s Police Department prides itself on dispatching officers to calls that Town Manager Dave Bullock calls “the snake in the toilet” cries for help.

Sarasota County has extended an offer to take over Longboat Key’s dispatch services, but the county doesn’t offer a level of service that dispatches officers to get a snake out of the house, rescue cats from trees or help elderly women turn on their fuse boxes.

The county said it’s willing to dispatch officers for those calls, if town staff provides a detailed list of what it expects, but the Longboat Key Town Commission is skeptical a larger agency can provide the attention-to-detail service the town already provides with its officers and five in-house dispatchers.

Sarasota County offered last month to extend dispatch service to the town, as well as North Port and Venice. They’re the only three municipalities for which the county doesn’t provide service, and county staff felt obligated to extend the offer, Bullock said.

Bullock noted at the commission’s Monday, April 15 workshop it will cost the town money to buy new county-compatible equipment and invest in a new data interface system, although a cost savings overall is expected if the county takes over the service. The cost savings is not known at this time.

But nothing is more important than the level-of-service question, according to Bullock and commissioners.
Bullock said it’s also tough to discount the relationship the officers have with the town’s five dispatchers.

“I’m one of the biggest proponents of working with the counties, but this concerns me,” said Commissioner Jack Duncan. “Service is the key, and reducing it is absolutely unacceptable.”

Commissioner Pat Zunz agreed.

“A proposal like this is more for a larger community,” Zunz said. “I’m not sure there’s a benefit to this application compared to what we have.”

Commissioner Phill Younger noted the county has agreed to replicate the town’s high level of service. Bullock intends to provide the county with a detailed level of service it expects and obtain the county’s response.

Commissioners agreed to allow the town to continue investigating the matter with the county and to report back.

Duncan warned the town should be 100% sure the county offer would work for the Key before it thinks of changing its service.

“If we commit, we are committed, and it would be near impossible to go back and re-establish what we have,” Duncan said. “We have to be careful to make sure this is absolutely the right thing for this Key.”

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