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Emergency dispatch gets review

The committee seeking to repeal an ordinance closing the city's emergency dispatch center got closer to that goal this week when the Supervisor of Elections Office verified the necessary number of signatures.

The elections office certified 201 signatures; about 190 were needed to meet the requirement of 10 percent of city voters necessary for a referendum, according to City Clerk Shirley Dresch.

Dresch said Friday that the matter will go before the City Council, which will have an opportunity to reconsider the move to contract dispatch services from the city of New Port Richey.

A reversal seems unlikely. The council has consistently voted 3-2 in favor of disbanding dispatch. On Oct. 14, that decision was reaffirmed again when council members approved a contract to pay New Port Richey $93,000 annually for dispatch.

The referendum committee, headed by city resident Jim Priest, says the city has overstated the amount of money it would save by contracting out dispatch, and that a majority of residents want local dispatch and their Police Department intact. Priest could not be reached Friday.

If the issue goes to referendum, a citywide vote would come during a special meeting or during the regular city elections in April.

First, however, the issue could be in court. City Attorney Paul Marino has asserted that the petition is invalid because the dispatch decision is based on budgetary concerns. Organizers disagree.

At the Oct. 14 council meeting, Marino said he would ask a Tampa labor attorney to seek a court opinion.

That has not yet happened.