It’s taking a lot longer than planned for Rotterdam’s dispatchers to move into the new Schenectady County dispatch center in the town of Rotterdam.
Glenville, Niskayuna and Schenectady dispatchers all moved in as scheduled, starting in May, but Rotterdam’s eight dispatchers have yet to join them at the Unified Communications Center on Hamburg Street, about four miles from the police station on Princetown Road.
Local officials blame software companies working to convert Rotterdam’s dispatch data from one type of computer-aided dispatch system to another.
“It was spotted earlier on. They just thought they could get it done quicker than they have,” said Tony Jasenski, chairman of the county Legislature. “I think it’s an issue internally within the actual software companies themselves.”
Jasenski said the delay hasn’t caused any lapse in service or coverage and 911 calls from Rotterdam are being routed to the county dispatch center.
“I know that they’re anxious to get in, and we’re anxious to have them,” he said. “It’s just taking longer than everyone anticipated.”
County officials have said the dispatch center will save about $673,000 annually, with Rotterdam saving $176,657. The town’s savings won’t start to be realized, however, until its dispatchers move into the center.
Rotterdam Deputy Police Chief Bill Manikas addressed the issue at Wednesday’s Town Board meeting, saying town dispatchers use a CAD system called IMPACT, but the county center is using Hitech, a CAD system Schenectady police dispatchers were already on. Niskayuna, Glenville and Scotia’s dispatch operations weren’t on any system, so they were brought onto Hitech more easily, he said.
“It was just a matter of loading software,” he said.
Manikas said Hitech is “putting all their efforts into converting” Rotterdam’s data to the software. He said the goal is to have the dispatchers move into the center by Jan. 1.
“Our current vendor, IMPACT, is working with Hitech to make this work, but our first conversions of the first four modules, there are some fields that need to be corrected,” he said.
Deputy Supervisor Wayne Calder said converting the data will allow dispatchers at the UCC to see “everything that’s happened in the past, every complaint, every issue.”
“For public safety reasons, [Police Chief Jim Hamilton] does not want to move the dispatchers over there at this time,” Calder said.
In the meantime, Rotterdam’s eight dispatchers are working extra hours because three dispatchers have left the department since 2011. They were not replaced, at the county’s request, in anticipation of the consolidation, Manikas said. Some dispatchers are being denied days off, and some are working 14- and 16-hour days as a result, he said.
They are also working extra hours to be trained on the UCC’s equipment and procedures, with that overtime to be reimbursed by the county, Manikas said.
“Quite frankly, it’s put a lot of pressure on my current dispatchers,” he said. “They’re being mandated to work because we have to have two people there to answer the phones.”
Wednesday’s discussion followed a request for a $11,500 budget transfer to cover the dispatchers’ overtime. The Town Board approved the transfer by a 3-2 vote, with Republican board members Joe Villano and Rick Larmour voting no.
Manikas said the dispatchers had accumulated $5,700 in extra, unbudgeted overtime as of Aug. 29. He said he was seeking an $11,500 budget transfer because “we’re not getting a definitive answer on when the dispatchers are leaving.”
Manikas said the town will actually save money this year, however, because it didn’t replace a dispatcher who left the department in July.