Schenectady County

Glenville supervisor supports dispatch center

Glenville town Supervisor Chris Koetzle has endorsed the latest proposal for centralized dispatch se

Glenville town Supervisor Chris Koetzle has endorsed the latest proposal for centralized dispatch services in Schenectady County.

Town officials had expressed reservations in the past about the plan because of concern that the town would bear a disproportionate share of the cost and wouldn’t see the promised savings.

Facing a March deadline to start tapping into a $1 million state grant to fund the dispatch center or lose the money, county officials revised the proposal. The new plan contains a “circuit breaker” that says if staffing isn’t reduced through attrition to the target level of 43 dispatchers, the county will absorb the extra expense. The county will also pay to build or rent a dispatch facility.

In addition, Glenville, Niskayuna and Rotterdam are receiving a 10 percent credit to take into account that their dispatchers perform other functions, and Glenville will also receive a credit for its dispatch equipment.

“There’s no question that I think the county has answered a lot of our concerns,” Koetzle said. “It’s taken a long time for us to get to this. I’m going to support it on faith that we’re going to be better together than alone.”

Koetzle’s endorsement came following a meeting Tuesday between town and county public safety officials at the Glenville Senior Center.

Koetzle said he still has concerns with each municipality’s share of the cost. Under the last proposal, Glenville would pay about 20 percent, compared with 14 percent for Niskayuna, 19 percent for Rotterdam and 47 percent for the city of Schenectady. The cost is based on “maintenance of effort,” meaning that it takes what each community spent on dispatching services and extrapolates that.

An advisory committee for the dispatch center would be able to revisit the cost-sharing arrangement within four years, and Koetzle said he wanted the town to have a role in the discussions.

County Legislator Anthony Jasenski, D-Rotterdam, said the maintenance of effort model is unique in the state. Other counties that have centralized dispatch services determine the share of the cost by property value or call volume. If Schenectady County does it that way, however, there would be clear winners and losers, with the cost increasing for some.

“We knew we would lose somebody from the table and that would hurt the whole project,” he said.

Jasenski said the county has budgeted $143,000 in transitional funding to cover any extra expenses should they not get to the staffing level. It also is appropriating $140,000 a year for 20 years toward the cost of maintaining a dispatch facility.

“We’re pretty much leaning toward leasing something because we don’t think we could have something up and running to meet the time line of the grant,” he said.

Jasenski said dispatchers’ sick and vacation time would roll over into the new countywide system.

Glenville Police Chief Michael Ranalli said every area is unique, so what works in one might not work in another. He believes the advisory committee should have worked out the details beforehand.

“To me, the cart was before the horse on this, so now we’re being asked to commit to something without knowing what the full implications will be,” he said.

West Glenville firefighter Tom Goodspeed said he thinks the project is a good idea.

“I think a unified command system is a better way to do it than we’re doing it now, but you’ve got to have the oversight. You can’t have one entity spending the money and just billing the others,” he said.

Glenville Town Board member Gina Wierzbowski, who is also an emergency medical technician, said she believes not participating would have hurt on the town. If Glenville is not part of the project, it won’t be able to get the questions answered.

Town Board member John Pytlovany, retired Scotia police chief, said he believes the county is a lot closer to guaranteeing the savings of $162,000 for Glenville than under the last proposal. He recalls similar concerns when Glenville took over dispatching for Scotia 14 years ago.

“With a few hiccups, it irons itself out after a while operationally,” he said.

The Glenville Town Board will meet in a work session at 7:30 p.m. today to discuss the proposal further. Next Wednesday, it will take up the resolution to proceed with the project. Schenectady has already adopted a resolution to proceed and other communities will be taking it up within a month.

The plan would be to get the facility up and running within a year and a half. Jasenski said Jan. 1, 2014, would be a reasonable target date.

“People think it was a hard row to get to this point. The hard work hasn’t even started yet,” he said.

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