The City of North Tonawanda and Niagara County officially agreed Tuesday night to provide an additional channel to the county's dispatch system, designated for the city, as well as hire additional staff to operate it.
Niagara County and North Tonawanda elected leaders and public safety officials, along with officers from the North Tonawanda Police Benevolent Association, met last month to discuss the details of the five-year deal that modifies the county's dispatch system based on input from North Tonawanda police.
The deal comes after NTPBA members advocated to bring back the North Tonawanda dispatch. They expressed concerns, including slow response times, regarding the current dispatch system. The county took over dispatch duties from NT in 2012.
The deal establishes a five-year pact that requires the county to operate a separate dispatch channel for the North Tonawanda Police.
After the Common Council approved the agreement Tuesday night, Pappas said, "I'm very hopeful that it's going to solve the concerns of the police union, the Police Benevolent Association. There were safety concerns, of course that's a No. 1 issue, is safety, and that's our concern."
He added that, by accepting the deal, "It's, in a sense, a compromise because dispatch will still remain with the county, but North Tonawanda will have its own channel, single channel. Basically, the protocol stays the same and everything, but the lines will be clear, communication easier - this is what we're hoping for, this is what it's supposed to produce, therefore alleviating the concerns of the police officers and those in the public that where concerned about the issue, too."
A memorandum of agreement between the city and the PBA established concessions in the PBA contract to be used toward the cost of maintaining a separate channel on the county radio system for North Tonawanda.
A separate intermunicipal agreement between the city and county will establish that channel.
The agreement - brokered by Niagara County Legislature Majority Leader Randy R. Bradt, Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour, city leaders and the PBA - requires the county to hire three full-time and four part-time dispatchers to monitor a separate radio frequency to be used by police in the city of 31,000.
According to numbers released by the office of the mayor, the annual cost for a single channel will grow from $98,588 for 2017 to $117,422 in 2018, and increasing annual up to $343,130 in 2021.
City police officers will give up 1 percent of their pay for 2017 and 1 percent of their upcoming raise for 2018.
In 2017, the PBA will provide $31,500 toward the agreement and, from 2018-21, it will provide $126,357 each year.
The total cost to the city over five years will be $418,500, while the county will contribute $31,500 for 2017 and an additional $50,000 each year from 2018-21.
"Our taxpayers in North Tonawanda deserve a direct return on their investment in public safety, and this ensures that," Bradt said. "Our county dispatch relies state-of-the-art technology, but this ensures it is being used in a manner that best protects the residents of NT and our local law enforcement officers."
Alderman-at-Large Jeffery M. Glatz, also involved in the negotiations, said the development was welcome.
"We had two goals: to protect the lives of our citizens and the lives of our police officers," he said. "This agreement does both. It ensures quick response times in a densely populated city, while relying on our county to provide a direct benefit to city taxpayers that help fund our sheriff's office."