MONTICELLO, NY — The government center was filled with firefighters, EMS workers and law enforcement officials on January 23 as the legislature met for the third day in row to address the 911 issue.
MONTICELLO, NY — The government center was filled with firefighters, EMS workers and law enforcement officials on January 23 as the Sullivan County Legislature met for the third day in row to address the 911 issue.
The previous day, the Public Safety Committee voted in emergency session to merge the operations of the 911 Control Center with the Sullivan County Sheriff's Department, effectively taking control from the Division of Public Safety and giving it to Sheriff Mike Schiff.
Chair Rob Doherty, however, announced at the beginning of the January 23 meeting that he intended to table the resolution for 90 days and investigate the matter. He said the legislature is going to issue a Request for Proposals for an organization to perform an audit on the two organizations, the 911 Control Center and the sherrif's dispatch operation. That is a change from the resolution adopted the previous day which stipulated that the audit would be performed by the New York State Sheriff's Association. Doherty said the legislature would form a subcommittee to consider the issue and the subcommittee would meet with stakeholders such as the EMS Advisory Board and the Fire Advisory Board.
Many people still wanted to speak during the public-comment period, and most were thankful for the table, but many still criticized the process to that point as being non-transparent.
Schiff, two days earlier, had said there were issues with management of the 911 center. Chet Smith, first vice president of the Sullivan County Fire Association, said his organization represents the county's 1,700 firefighters. He said, "The 911 center's effectiveness, professionalism and consistency is not now and has not been the subject of conversation since the sheriff's department lost control of the 911 center years ago."
When the resolution was first introduced on January 21, he was one of several people who also said that tabling the resolution regarding the proposed consolidation was faulty. The resolution failed to get a second that day. In his view, and in others’, that meant the resolution was dead and not viable to be tabled.
Carol Wingert, former supervisor of the Town of Tusten, criticized legislator Nicholas Salomone Jr. for comments he said on the previous day. He claimed he called the emergency meeting because he couldn't sleep the night before due to being worried about the safety of the public. She said, "An inability to sleep is not a real reason to hold an emergency meeting. It appears that the committee... may have been in violation of the open meetings law."
Wingert, along with another speaker, was critical of the treatment of E911 coordinator Alex Rau at the meeting two days before. She said, "If the legislative body had a problem with Alex Rau's performance, that was a personnel matter. [He should not have been] publicly chastised in that committee meeting. That is shameful."
Of the dozen or so speakers, several said 911 consolidation with the sheriff's office may turn out to be the best option, but every speaker criticized the process so far.
(Updated for clarity on January 24.)