Joint dispatch center to better serve public

By Ken Esten Cooke —

Last week’s meeting of the minds concerning the new emergency dispatch center left a couple of issues unresolved: Whether the new joint operations will be a county operation or move to become a function of the city, and also how the facility will be funded.

In the midst of construction of the $15-million jail facility, which will house the new dispatch center, the questions point to about the only issues that have not gone smoothly for the project, described as “on time and under budget.”

The county and city will make votes to establish an advisory board, and as Commissioner Billy Roeder said, that will be a good idea as an advisory board has helped the Gillespie County Airport become a successful, top-notch facility for a rural town.

The advisory board also will help with merging the staffs of county and city employees and issues about their pay should be worked out in time.

Deciding who will lead the facility — either the sheriff or the police chief — has caused some contention. Some favor the police chief and putting dispatch employees on the city’s higher pay scale, while the sheriff’s experience in running dispatch operations cannot be discounted. Rural fire chiefs want their voices heard as well.

This is a tough issue for the many in our area who have nothing but respect for our county sheriff and police chief. We appreciate their pledge to continue working cooperatively on law enforcement matters no matter what happens.

While we await these decisions, we give a nod of appreciation to the work done by the committee of 22 individuals who toured dispatch facilities in other towns, representatives of the various departments and agencies involved in emergency services. In time, their efforts will result in improved dispatch operations.

We are not alone in hoping for a smooth transition and we hope once a decision is made, no hard feelings will linger. Law enforcement officials should know their efforts are appreciated by the public who generally feels very safe in this town and in this county.

Yet, the underlying goal should be an improved dispatch operation. Whoever ends up in charge, a facility to better serve the public should be the driving factor.

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