NEW PORT RICHEY — City officials are planning to piggyback onto the consolidated 911 emergency dispatch system being formed by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office and Pasco Fire Rescue.
New Port Richey City Council members directed staff on Tuesday evening to draft an agreement to participate in the 911 consolidation set to launch Oct. 1. City Council member Bill Phillips called the move "paramount" to ensure the safety of officers and residents.
"I think the net benefit is there," he said.
It was good news to New Port Richey interim police chief Kim Bogart, who called the city's dispatch system the most "antiquated" he has ever seen. Residents call 911 and give their information to a dispatcher, only to get transferred sometimes to another agency that needs their information again.
The New Port Richey dispatch center handles calls for the city's police and fire departments. But if a caller needs emergency medical services, which the city does not provide, that call must be rerouted to Pasco Fire Rescue dispatch.
Calls from cell phones automatically go to Pasco Fire Rescue dispatch, even if someone is dialing within the city limits. So those calls have to get rerouted to New Port Richey dispatch.
A county report outlining the scope of 911 transfer delays found that of the 9,010 calls that New Port Richey dispatch fielded in 2012, 54 percent were wireless transfers from Pasco Fire Rescue dispatch.
With a consolidated 911 center, callers will get dispatchers who are trained to provide instructions and send responders for any kind of emergency, across the participating jurisdictions. County officials have asked Pasco's other cities to come on board, too.
New Port Richey's dispatchers would be offered jobs with Pasco County's consolidated dispatch center, which would train them. The city would chip in about $36,000 in startup costs.
Bogart did warn, however, that losing employees, many of which have more duties on top of dispatching, will leave holes within the department.
"I want to see us do this, but I also don't want to see these other things fall through the cracks," he said.
Piggybacking onto county dispatch would cost the city about $206,000 a year, as opposed to the $297,000 a year New Port Richey spends to run its own dispatch center.
"In this arena seconds count, seconds save lives," Pasco sheriff's Col. Brian Head told the council.