By Lauren Zaepfel
Despite concerns made by North Tonawanda Police Benevolent Association members regarding the county's emergency dispatch system, North Tonawanda Mayor Arthur G. Pappas stated in a release Friday the city will not seek to make changes.
Pappas stated, "Our City government has concluded our County dispatch services are meeting the residents' needs and no change at this time is the most responsible course."
This comes after NTPBA members raised concerns for the safety of both local officers and residents regarding the current dispatch system.
"There are reams of reports and concerns our members have filed with the city that depict dispatch problems: response times have increased, radio connections have been spotty, or officers cannot transmit due to high radio traffic," NTPBA President Daryl Truty said in statement in response to the mayor's announcement. "These problems occur on far-too-frequent basis. But the city forbids the release of this information."
In his release, Pappas said, he, along with Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour and his staff, North Tonawanda Police Chief Bill Hall, county attorney staff, the North Tonawanda city attorney and the members of the PBA, all met to discuss the concerns related to the Niagara County Dispatch system.
"The main purpose of these conversations was safety: both of our police officers and of the public," Pappas said.
He said, Voutour "satisfied the Common Council and I that safety concerns presented have been properly addressed and do not present any danger to our officers or our residents. Had that not been the case, we would be taking a markedly different stance today."
Truty, in his statement released via the North Tonawanda PBA Facebook page, stated members were "extremely disappointed."
He stated, Pappas "completely overstated the level of interest the city took in our public safety concerns and he mischaracterized the PBA's interactions with county officials in discussing the county-run 911 dispatch process.
"His actions also failed to reflect the reality and urgency of what are potentially life or death circumstances, which is much more than disappointing; it is negligent. The mayor also has yet to address the increased response times that have occurred since the city joined the county 911 dispatch system."
Truty claimed a lack of funds is the reason Pappas has been opposed to the plan.
In a phone call Monday, Truty said PBA members offered to give up the position of one full- time police officer through attrition, as well as loose approximately $140,000 in raises each year in order to cover the cost of hiring five dispatchers for North Tonawanda.
But Pappas, in his release, said, "Cost was always a secondary, but not overlooked issue. I will be blunt! We determined the cost of bringing local dispatch back to North Tonawanda and sufficiently modernizing our equipment was so excessive, even with PBA proposed concessions, it could not be sustained over the long haul, while still producing responsible budgets respectful of our citizen taxpayers. As it stands now, the City does not have the licensing or the equipment and are completely unprepared to handle dispatch."
Despite Pappas' response, NTPBA members again spoke at Thursday's board meeting. No new developments were made.