Merger of 911 Dispatchers Moving Slowly

Technical, personnel issues have been challenge, Putnam officials say

A plan to move Putnam County Sheriff Department dispatchers to the county’s 911 call center is taking longer than expected and has legislators questioning whether the merger can be completed.

“There are still a lot of moving parts,” said Ken Clair, commissioner of the Bureau of Emergency Services (BES), at a meeting last month of the county Legislature’s Protective Services Committee.

The plan is to have dispatchers for fire, police and medical emergencies under one roof at the Emergency Operations Center in Carmel, he said.

Technical issues have slowed progress, Clair said, as have the challenges of merging personnel represented by two unions, such as determining which dispatchers will have seniority and whether the sheriff’s dispatchers will report to Clair or Sheriff Robert Langley. Clair said the initial plan was to have the sheriff’s dispatchers eventually become BES employees.

Legislator Ginny Nacerino (R-Patterson) expressed disappointment at the delay.

“When this was proposed, our objective was to improve efficiencies,” she said. “If we’re going to get caught up in ‘The sheriff’s guys aren’t going to answer to Kenny,’ there’s a disconnect.”

Langley, who was at the meeting, said he and Clair had been ironing out a chain of command that all employees are comfortable with. “The bottom line is, if there’s a supervisor in that room, you better listen to the supervisor,” he said.

Nacerino seemed unconvinced.

“Wasn’t it the objective to have these dispatchers dually trained to do each other’s jobs?” she asked. “Why is there this segregation?”

Langley said that goal remains, but the path to get there is not as straight and narrow as they had hoped it would be. “Fire service [dispatching] has different demands than that of law enforcement,” he said. “They talk different languages.”

But, he added, “it can work, and it will work.”

“Is this something that can happen, or is this something that we’re just dreaming about?” asked Legislator Paul Jonke (R-Brewster). “Because I don’t want to spend any more taxpayer money on a project that’s not going anywhere.”

“I’m 100 percent vested in this,” replied Langley. “I see this as the right direction to go.”

“If everything goes just peachy, when is this going to happen?” Jonke asked.

 “Summertime?” said Clair.

“I was thinking we’d be in there already,” said Langley. “We want this to work flawlessly for the interest of public safety.”

Lawmakers said they expect another update in January.

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