Seaford Officials Vote To Redirect Calls and Change 911 Center T - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Seaford Officials Vote to Redirect Calls and Change 911 Center to "Call Center"

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SEAFORD, Del.- After months of debate, the Seaford City Council on Tuesday voted to redirect all 911 calls in Seaford and nearby areas to the Sussex County EOC in Georgetown.

The EOC, officials say, is where the majority of Sussex County's dispatching services are already currently handled by Sussex County EMS and state police. 

This change comes after Seaford officials determined the 911 center, which has been in service since the 1970's, has grown too costly to operate.

Mayor David Genshaw says redirecting these calls will eliminate a "duplicate service," as the EOC has similar capabilities in terms of emergency response, and shutting down the 911 center could save the city over $600,000.

But a committee was formed earlier this month to try and explore other alternatives to shutting down the 911 center--some citing delayed response times as a concern.

This committee over the past month has in turn explored three possible alternatives.

Option 1 was to maintain the current services offered by the 911 center, which works very closely with the Seaford Police Department.

The second option was to close the 911 center and transfer services to the state and county in Georgetown in an effort to save nearly $600,000.

But earlier this month, a third option was presented, which would redirect calls to Georgetown and also turn the 911 center into what's called a "call center" which is what the committee recommended Tuesday night, and what the city council approved. 

Genshaw tells WBOC, "It's a good middle ground to land on. "I think it's going to support our officers and utility workers and it's a really really good thing."

While many people in Seaford argued this change could have a negative impact on response times, as Seaford 911 dispatchers say they provide more of a personal and local touch responding to calls--Genshaw says this third option "is going to give our community the sense that they're not losing the customer service that they love."

Genshaw says the 911 center will soon change names. Now, "Call takers" at the call center will not take 911 emergency calls, but instead provide administrative and supportive services to the city and police department. 

These "call takers" will not be required to have significant amounts of training, education or certifications as 911 dispatchers. 

Instead, some of their duties could entail, "Handling walk-in lobby complaints, assisting with monthly audits and validations, monitoring surveillance videos for the City and Police Department, entering stolen property, and to send police to non police/EMS complaints."

Dispatch Administrator Anita Bell says she's disappointed and wishes things could have turned out differently.

"They have all of these certifications and now they don't need them anymore and that's a shame," she said. "It took a lot of time for them to take those classes and be re-certified every two years, and to not be able to utilize what they already have, I think you'll see a lot of them move on."

Councilman James King said in a statement he is also disappointed with tonight's outcome and wishes a more comprehensive recommendation was presented, and more time was given to explore every possible alternative. 

"I feel that there has been no meaningful work or conversations around cost saving measures that could save our 911 call center.

There has been no study conducted to provide city residents with accurate and hard-data based facts around the costs, and if a tax or service increase would be needed in order to save our call center.  (Likewise there has been no discussion as to IF an increase is needed, what would be the TRUE and accurate percentage required.)  

Genshaw says though the decision was a tough one, he and other city officials are thankful for the contributions of the committee and stand by their decision. 

He went on to say he does not foresee other departments being affected in this way by budget cuts, but says the city is always re-examining the budget to keep taxes down. 

Again, he does not believe emergency response times will be negatively impacted.

 

 

 

 

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