The majority of the Longboat Key Town Commission gave Town Manager Dave Bullock consensus Monday at its workshop to take Sarasota County up on its offer to provide dispatch service for the Key.
But the cost savings of $293,600 that involved eliminating the police department’s five dispatcher positions isn’t there any longer.
That’s because the commission’s consensus came along with a caveat the town have administrative staff in the police department building 24 hours a day in case residents want to call the department in the evening hours or stop by with a problem.
Mayor Jack Duncan, Vice Mayor Terry Gans and Commissioners Jack Daly, Lynn Larson and Phill Younger gave Bullock consensus to continue to work for a Sarasota County transition.
Commissioner Irwin Pastor preferred sticking with the current Manatee County 911 dispatch service that includes keeping the town’s dispatchers. Commissioner Pat Zunz did not weigh in at the town attorney’s recommendation because her son was hired and in training to become a town 911 dispatcher.
Town staff has been having back and forth discussions with Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office officials since 2013 on its offer to consolidate its 911 dispatch service, which doesn’t need the five current Longboat Key dispatchers to provide the service. Sarasota County consolidated and updated its system in the 1990s.
But Manatee County announced in September its transitioning to the NextGen 911 system, which will allow dispatch to handle digital technology. The news means that changes and the costs that go along with the upgrades are coming for both services.
The annual cost to sticking with an upgraded Manatee County service is $24,287.
Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming told the Longboat Observer last month that he believes the price the town pays for its current dispatchers is worth it if the town wants to keep the same level of service it has now. He urged commissioners to keep dispatchers Monday. But Fire Rescue Chief Paul Dezzi supported the Sarasota County option, calling it a better option for firefighter paramedics that would be using a system with protocols that the town’s current medical services director already utilizes.