Monday, April 23, 2018
Public safety

County hires director to oversee 911 systems, merger

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco commissioners on Tuesday hired a consultant from New York to oversee the merger of the county's 911 operations.

Dona D. Fernandes is working as a consultant helping install the New York City Fire Department's computer-aided dispatch system. She'll start her new job Aug. 5, overseeing Pasco's 911 consolidation project.

The Sheriff's Office and Pasco Fire Rescue currently handle 911 calls separately inside New Port Richey offices. After Oct. 1, those separate systems will operate within a single communications center headed by Fernandes. Commissioners Tuesday voted unanimously to hire Fernandes. Her job pays $90,000 yearly.

Until last year, the merger idea was shelved repeatedly because of turf battles and technical issues. A 2010 consultant's report found instances where calls from cities were picked up by county 911 operators, then transferred to the city operators.

Callers found themselves having to describe their emergencies all over to another operator — or worse, their calls were dropped and they had to call back. Most cellular calls, even those from a city address, end up being routed to the county system.

Officials say the upgrade will eliminate the time delays and dropped calls and lower operational costs in the long run. The work has been going on for about a year and is expected to be finished by Oct. 1.

Dade City and New Port Richey have expressed interest in joining the systems, which would add another dimension to the merger but resolve long-running technical problems.

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