HomeIndependentIndependent OpinionLayoff of dispatch operators may cause public safety risk

Layoff of dispatch operators may cause public safety risk

The announcement that Middletown will lay off the 911 dispatch operators brings observations not made in the announcement. It is true that now the township will not have to pay to keep these employees on the payroll, but the residents will continue to pay to keep them on the county payroll.

There are no real savings here since the county 911 operators receive a higher pay than when they work for the township. In 2011, the township borrowed over $600K to purchase a state-of-the-art 911 computer system, which did not include installation costs. This loan still has another five years of payments remaining. Payments will continue to be made on equipment that will be used only as a backup.

The announcement stated that the township will be paying $475K to the county on an annual basis, with a maximum 2 percent annual increase over the next four years. By the time the original loan is paid in five years, the township will have paid the county over $2 million in fees. This, plus the remaining loan payments, will total over $2.3 million.

Other than financially, this move could put the public safety in jeopardy if a call is misdirected. A five-minute delay in response time to a fire is the difference between a room being lost and an entire home. A five-minute delay in response to a heart attack victim is the difference between life and death.

Contrary to reports, there are no guarantees that a former Middletown dispatch operator, who has knowledge and wisdom regarding Middletown’s 42 square miles, will answer calls received from Middletown.

Better decisions need to be made by our elected officials regarding the safety of the residents and especially the emergency responders who work and volunteer in Middletown. Saving a few dollars cost much more in the end.

Don Watson

New Monmouth

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