As the Leesburg Town Council adopted its fiscal year 2020 budget last week, there was already clear indication about what the next hot topic before the council may be.
The Town Council must decide whether it wants to consolidate its police dispatch operations with Loudoun County at a consolidated Emergency Communications Center.
As part of its consent agenda last week, the council adopted a three-tier approach recommended by Town Manager Kaj Dentler that does not bind them to a decision one way or another. That process includes initiating discussions with the county on the development of a Memorandum of Agreement; allocating $40,000 from the undesignated fund balance to hire a technical consultant to evaluate how the town would go about replacing its Computer Aided Dispatch/Records Management System, should it choose to not go on the county’s system; and scheduling a future work session on MOA discussions and the consultant recommendations.
The consolidation of dispatch responsibilities is estimated to save the town $2 million, by not having to upgrade its CAD/RMS to have better communication capabilities with the county system. What is not known, however, is whether the Leesburg Police Department’s 13 dispatchers would be taken into county employ should the consolidation occur. That is one of the driving forces behind Leesburg Police Chief Gregory Brown’s preference to keep the dispatch system separate from the county’s.
“I have a responsibility to assure those individuals are kept whole and that we listen to what their needs and desires are. I understand the needs and goals of an organization outweighs individual needs. I understand that from a business perspective but I still need to take that into consideration. If that was my sole reason I probably wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, but my professional opinion is we can address the issues through technology and infrastructure to help us maintain our independence,” he said.
Brown said his position about upgrading technology to keep the system with the town has not changed since he began as chief in 2016. He finds fault with a study released last year that noted efficiencies if the county and town systems were consolidated.
“They identified efficiencies with the study I did not feel adequately reflect our situation or other jurisdictions like Fairfax or Vienna who are secondary operating [dispatch] systems. There’s a model right next door that that consulting company didn’t even look at. There’s very much a possibility of us being a secondary P-SAP [Public Safety Answering Point]. We can address operational deficiencies without giving up our individual system and the way we serve the community,” Brown said.
Brown also said he supports keeping the dispatch responsibilities in town to have accountability to town residents. He said he supports Dentler’s recommended process to determine the best step forward for Leesburg.
“I understand that we have to increase efficiencies, but I’ve never been a fan of putting the cart before the horse. We have to slow things down and make sure we’re taking the most effective and efficient approach rather than the shotgun approach,” he said.
Brown added that he is immensely thankful and pleased that the council approved the funding to hire the consultant so that everyone can make the best decision for the town.