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Spa City debates leaving emergency dispatch to county

With the specter of a continued budget gap as the City of Saratoga Springs approaches the 2010 budgeting process, the City Council on Tuesday, Aug. 4, turned its attention towards a proposal to close the city's emergency dispatch center and transfer operations to the county level.

The council discussed a July 29 meeting between city officials, Sheriff Bowen and county officials. The outcome is subject to opinion, but it was agreed that the possibility should be further studied as a cost saving measure.

The city has a number of policies and procedures that we follow, and [the meeting involved] how and if those policies could be implemented on the county level, said Finance Commissioner Kenneth Ivins, who originally floated the idea of consolidating services.

Another meeting between Bowen, Police Chief Edward Moore and Fire Chief Robert Cogan was suggested.

Saratoga Springs is one of three municipalities in the county that handles its own dispatch services, the other two being Mechanicville and Waterford. The Village of Ballston Spa switched to county dispatch in May. The dispatch center is run out of the county jail in Milton.

Ivins argued that the city is already supporting dispatching services in the rest of the county through county sales tax, and essentially paying for dispatching twice over.

Public Safety Commissioner Ronald Kim said he thought the meeting with Bowen was productive and that his department will continue to examine consolidating dispatch. He expressed some concerns, however.

"One of the things we believe is a huge problem is that the sheriff has basically said he won't put anything in writing," said Kim.

He wondered if the county would hire the city's dispatchers or spring extra expenses without a written contract. Ivins noted that contracts do not exist with any other municipality receiving the service.

Kim also supposed that city dispatching is superior to county dispatching, as the dispatchers have intimate local knowledge.

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