Government Fleet Top News

Sheriff's Office Taking Over Dispatching Duties

August 29, 2007

BROOKSVILLE, FL - Beginning Jan. 1, Hernando County Sheriff's Office dispatchers will handle police and fire calls for Brooksville in a move expected to save the city both time and money, according to www.sptimes.com.

At a budget workshop Monday, the City Council told City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha to work out a contract for the sheriff to take over dispatching the 911 emergency calls. The city expects to save $195,564 per year, said Norman-Vacha, by eliminating staff and equipment costs and by hooking into a more technologically advanced response system.

"Our studies show that it's going to be more efficient," Norman-Vacha said.

To meet the requirements of new legislation requiring property tax cuts, the city manager and her staff have been looking for ways to meet the council's target of a 10 percent budget cut.

The city has four police and fire dispatchers and one supervisor on its payroll. Although contracting the service would eliminate those jobs, Norman-Vacha said that her discussions with Sheriff Richard Nugent indicated that he would consider filling any dispatch openings in his department with the city employees.

The council also heard several other cost-savings ideas that members liked, including lengthening the service life of city vehicles. The initiative, which would extend the service life from five to seven years for smaller vehicles and from eight to 10 years for larger ones, would produce and annual savings about $84,000, Norman-Vacha said.

In addition, Norman-Vacha and her staff also recommended that the Brooksville Emergency Response Team BERT program be refocused toward local needs and that the city eliminate financial stipends for team members.

"We would still respond (outside of the city) when asked, but we won't be looking for reasons to go outside Florida," Norman-Vacha said.

Any savings in the 2007-08 budget won't likely end up in taxpayer pockets, however. Most council members said they would rather the city hang on to the money.

"There's a lot of uncertainty out there," said councilman Richard Lewis. In light of the possibility that Florida voters may approve a proposed homestead "super" exemption amendment in January, Lewis said he favored putting any tax savings in the city's reserve fund. "We may have a rainy day and we don't know if we'll need it," he said.

Mayor David Pugh agreed, saying, "As much as I'd like to lower taxes, I don't think we can right now."

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