DADE CITY — City commissioners agreed last week to join forces with the county to provide emergency communication services.
Police Chief Ray Velboom said the partnership will improve the response time when someone calls 911 for help. As the system works now, an emergency call from a landline telephone in Dade City goes to the city police department; the same call from a cellular phone in the city goes to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, where a dispatcher takes the caller's information and transfers them to the appropriate department, where the caller has to repeat the information and hope the call doesn't get dropped in the transfer.
Teaming up with the consolidated communications center means a 911 caller will only have to speak to one dispatcher, Velboom said.
Consolidating services will also give city police access to better technology, such as automatic vehicle locators in patrol cars and access to the county's records management system — equipment that would have cost Dade City about $380,000, the chief said.
Of the city's eight dispatchers, two will be transferred to work at the consolidated center; the city will pay about $90,000 a year to cover salary and benefit expenses. The others will remain employed with the city police department, answering non-emergency phone lines, assisting walk-in visitors and helping officers with reports.
Commissioner Jim Shive expressed concern about the five-year agreement.
"There are a lot of unknowns with this, especially with costs," said Shive. "It seems like we're fragmenting the department."
Velboom said if the city decides later that the partnership isn't working, it can go back to the way things are currently done. The county expects to start consolidated operations in October.
"The biggest selling point is the efficiency and greater response time," said Mayor Camille Hernandez. "I believe the benefits outweigh the risks. This is a step that makes sense for us."
Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the agreement.