Council Funds Dispatching Center Upgrades, Consolidation Decision Looming

Although the Leesburg Town Council recently put some funding behind enhancements to its Emergency Communications Center, a bigger decision is looming.

            The conversation on whether Loudoun County should take over dispatch services for the town began shortly after Chief of Police Gregory Brown began his tenure with the town in late 2016. It continues today, and will require the Town Council at a certain point to weigh the benefits of keeping dispatch duties in house with the Leesburg Police Department and its 13 dispatchers, or consolidate operations with the county, saving money but perhaps losing an element of control and oversight.

            In the short term, the council last week approved a fiscal year 2019 budget adjustment that will fund an upgrade to the town’s call handling equipment at a one-time cost of $450,000, with an annual recurring cost just under $100,000. Town Manager Kaj Dentler explained that the town’s current system does not allow it to automatically receive information from the county’s 911 center about the number a 911 call is placed from, nor the caller’s location. The implementation of this upgrade is expected to take six to eight months. 

            Should the council ultimately decide to consolidate dispatch responsibilities with the county, a staff report notes that the call handling equipment may be able to deployed in a different manner and at a lower cost. Dentler emphasized the expense would not be a wasted, no matter which direction the council chooses to go. The town’s police department is also pursuing certification by the FCC as the secondary Public Safety Answering Point for the town’s emergency communications. Loudoun County is the primary PSAP.

            Dentler said a consolidation with the county would save the town over $1.6 million annually, primarily with the elimination of the 13 dispatcher positions. Dentler said he has spoken to County Administration Tim Hemstreet about hiring the town dispatchers if the town consolidates its operations, but no promises have been made. 

            Should the town choose to continue to maintain its own, separate dispatch center, which is Brown’s recommendation, it will require an additional upgrade of the police department’s Computer Aided Dispatch/Records Management System, at a one-time cost of $520,000, with a recurring maintenance cost of $101,000. Brown is also recommending that, even if operations are consolidated with the county, a separate town RMS be maintained with an annual cost of $34,000.

            It is estimated that a transition to the county Emergency Communications Center would take at least two years to implement, according to the staff report.

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