Leesburg Police Department dispatchers and staff have something extra to be thankful for this season: The town’s emergency communications center will remain at police department headquarters.
It’s a decision by the Town Council that will likely mean the 13 civilian dispatchers’ jobs are safe. They were possibly in jeopardy had the council chosen to go with an option to turn over dispatch responsibilities to Loudoun County. While that may have been a money-saving, long-term investment, Police Chief Gregory Brown recommended against it, emphasizing that keeping dispatching duties in house would allow for better accountability and oversight.
Tuesday night’s council vote also paves the way for an upgrade of the department’s Computer Aided Dispatch/Records Management System. The initial capital cost for the upgrade is estimated at $520,000, but the town will find savings in lower maintenance costs than what its current system requires.
If the council supported the option to consolidate its dispatch operation with the county, the town could have realized annual savings of approximately $1.7 million, primarily through cuts. Brown had recommended, though, maintaining a separate records management system even with the consolidation, which would have brought total annual savings down to $1.4 million.
But money appears to have played a secondary consideration for council members who supported keeping the town’s emergency communications center separate from Loudoun County.
Mayor Kelly Burk said she recently visited both Loudoun County’s dispatch center, as well as the Leesburg Police Department’s.
“Community service is a huge part of our dispatch system, and to do without it and move it to the county would be a detriment to our citizens,” she said.
Others pointed to the complexities involved with system consolidation, with transition process and a need to still replace the CAD/RMS in the meantime.
A county-funded 911 efficiency study had previously advocated for efficiencies in the county’s emergency call-taking, and earlier this year the Board of Supervisors’ finance committee had recommended a consolidation between the town and county systems.
Tuesday night’s decision passed by a 6-0-1 vote, with Councilman Josh Thiel absent.