The City of Seaford Eyes Shutting Down Dispatch Operations at 91 - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

City of Seaford Eyes Shutting Down Dispatch Operations at 911 Center

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SEAFORD, Del.- If you make a 911 call in Seaford now, that call will be answered by dispatchers at the City of Seaford's Police and 911 Center. But 10 months from now, this could all change.

Mayor David Genshaw tells WBOC operating a dispatch center out of this location has become costly over the years, despite the center being one of the first to open in Sussex County decades ago.

"Around the country is the consolidation of 911 centers. They're very expensive and to have duplicate services where our citizens are paying a tax to pay for our center, they're also getting taxed by Sussex County for their center."

Genshaw says if calls are redirected to the Emergency Operations Center in Georgetown this could save the city money.

"Right now our cost is $650,000 to run our dispatch center, but that number is going to go up, and it should," he said. 

Genshaw says there's a great need at the center to invest in more people and more equipment but, "We need to take a look at this now and do what's best again for the people of Seaford, the taxpayers of Seaford and also the employees.

According to the City of Seaford and statistics provided by the 911 center, there were 9,660 calls for police service in 2019, 443 calls for fire, and 2,256 for EMS service. 

Some in Seaford say they want the system to remain the same and do not want their calls redirected to Georgetown--they want their calls to stay local.

People like Edward Hadley said, "I think people will feel safer with them calling 911 and instead of the response coming from Georgetown, it will be coming from the local 911 center here."

John Alloway, another local said of dispatchers, "They know the community, they know what's going on, they know the people, they know the community leaders to communicate with them."

The City of Seaford says the safety of the people remains their number one concern and they would not consider the transition if they felt response times would be negatively impacted.

Genshaw says the goal is to continue to provide safety for Seaford without negatively impacting the city's funds or taxpayer's dollars. 

"It's hard for me to say let's raise people's taxes thirty percent to cover something that we can transition to that will give us the same coverage, a duplicate service," he said.

"It will still keep our people safe and then nine great people that work for our dispatch center, we'll give them the best opportunity to get employment. I think that would be our right move of action, but again this will be a council decision."

But Dispatch Administrator Anita Bell said she believes there could be drawbacks, as the current 911 center allows police officers and dispatch to work in the same building in Seaford. 

If calls were redirected, Seaford police would still be housed at the center, but dispatch services will come from Georgetown. 

"When a call comes in, if an officer is standing there, the response is quicker than dispatching it out, so there's no delay. We also cater to the City of Seaford."

Bell says over the years many of her dispatchers have grown to know the callers, they're very familiar with their situations and they know their streets personally so they often cater specifically to their needs. 

Bell hopes people come to the next council meeting on Aug. 27 at the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department where public comment will be welcome. 

 

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