The Waukesha Common Council will stay with its city dispatch center – for now. The issue could come back as aldermen continue exploring the possibility of consolidating the city dispatch center with the Waukesha County Communications Center.
While the Common Council voted unanimously to maintain the dispatch center, aldermen could reconsider the option as more research is completed. Under council rules, items typically can’t be brought back for another vote until a year has passed, according to discussion at the meeting, but if the council wishes to rescind a vote during that year, it may do so.
It is unclear when the issue will come back.
“I do believe it is important that we keep the door open,” said Common Council President Joe Pieper.
Pieper said he has met with representatives from the county and that the county is open to continuing discussion about consolidating the dispatch centers.
The council reviewed the possibility of joint dispatch as it looks for ways to trim money out of its tight budgets. The 2012 budget has reduced officer and firefighter positions, and deferred some major leadership positions in attempt to cut costs.
The Waukesha County Communications Center dispatches for more than two dozen agencies in the area. An analysis done by the Police Department reviewed calls at some of those agencies, with the Brookfield Police Department saying it had the most problems with county dispatch.
Joining the county’s dispatch center would save the city on average $14 per household per year during the next 10 years, according to an analysis done by the Waukesha Police Department.
Of the five public speakers who commented during the meeting, four of them urged the council to keep the dispatch center at the police department and one asked for the council to wait for more time.
The reaction among aldermen varied from those who wanted to keep open collaboration discussions with the county from those who 100 percent support the city maintaining its own dispatch center.
Alderman Roger Patton, who represents the downtown district, said that he feels dispatch services are better done on a small rather than a large scale.
“I feel we need to support our officers and support our chief’s opinion,” Patton said. “When he changes his mind, I will change mine.”
Alderman Andy Reiland said a ride along with the Waukesha Police Department was “eye-opening” as he learned more about the relationship between the dispatchers and officers.
“They rely heavily on the communication with the dispatch center,” Reiland said. “It is their lifeline.”
Reiland said the message he’s received from his constituents has been to keep the city’s dispatch center. The city needs to ensure dispatch service – if changed – maintains its current level of service or exceed its level of service.
But others want to continue the discussion, including aldermen Kathleen Cummings and Duane Paulson who are the subject of an ethics complaint based upon their dual role as county board supervisors.
One of Cummings concerns was leaving the public with no clear answer about when consolidated dispatch could return.
“When is it going to be brought back? There have been a lot of things said and there has been a lot said about me,” Cummings said.
The presence of uniformed officers at an April meeting on joint dispatch at Waukesha North High School caused Paulson to wonder “if this may have been somewhat of an intimidation tactic,” Paulson said.
The discussions about joint dispatch has created strained professional and personal relationships between some city and county employees, Paulson said.
“How long will it take to repair that?” Paulson asked.
Paulson said he didn’t “care for the idea” that he was presented with an ethics complaint because of his elected role, calling it “disheartening” and “an attempt to intimidate.”
Paulson called for the two communities to continue discussions.
“Let’s put our heads together and see if we can’t work this out,” Paulson said.