News : High Springs to Weigh Emergency Call Center Costs
High Springs. FL, Sept 9, 2014 -- Running its own emergency communications center instead of using Alachua County’s could be costing the city of High Springs about $114,000 more each year, and one city official wants to know if it is a bargain.
Commissioner Scott Jamison said it costs about $200,000 per year for the city to run its own version of the service, with most of that going to pay dispatchers.
By comparison, in 2011, the last time High Springs used the county's center, it cost $85,000 to contract emergency call services. The city is spending about $114,000 more per year, City Manager Ed Booth said, but that's only an estimate based on the costs of previous years. The exact amount the city would pay the county depends on the number of calls, he said.
The commission already budgeted the money to run the High Springs emergency communication center for this year, Booth said. Commissioners have asked to discuss the issue, and at Thursday's meeting they will set a date for a workshop.
Booth emphasized he would only provide raw data to the commission and would not make a recommendation. "I'm taking a neutral stance," he said. It's a controversial issue in High Springs, Booth said.
"There's a large portion of the public that feels like having their own dispatch gives them some sense of not being attached to the county," he said. "It doesn't have to do with money. It has to do with what citizens want."
Jamison said the matter has been on his radar for a while, and wants more information.
"What are we getting for the money?" he asked. "Are we getting the best bang for our buck? Are we safer for doing it? Is the response time better?
One issue is that with the Alachua County emergency call center, the nearest deputy is automatically dispatched as well as local police. With the High Springs call center, the city police must have to call the sheriff's office themselves. Police officers could be safer with the county system because of that fact, Jamison said.
Another question is whether the city would have to rename certain streets to comply with Alachua County's grid system that centers on University Avenue and Main Street in Gainesville. Commissioners would need to know how much that would cost if it turned out to be necessary, Jamison said.
Commissioners need a clear idea of what they are getting for the extra cost, Jamison said. "Let's make sure we quantify this thing," he said. "For me, it's a clear-cut cost/benefit analysis."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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