Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

County May Get Venice 911 Calls

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

County May Get Venice 911 Calls

Article excerpt

DISPATCH: Tentative vote to accept Sheriff's office to provide service

VENICE

The city's police dispatch service will be taken over by the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office under a tentative plan approved by the City Council on Tuesday.

The vote was unexpected; the agenda called for the council to authorize the city manager to further investigate a merger.

But council member Bob Daniels said the city had worked out the major issues and it was time to commit to the county's offer to provide dispatch service for free.

"What we ought to say is we accept the offer and move forward," Daniels said, making a motion to do so. "We need to come up with an interlocal agreement on all the specifics."

Sarasota County is building a more storm-resistant emergency response center in Sarasota. The Sheriff's Office, which will staff it, has made the same offer of dispatch service to North Port and Longboat Key, giving each municipality until May 19 to decide.

The North Port and Longboat Key commissions have instructed their police chiefs to do "due diligence" and make a recommendation. Operating out of the county's downtown administration building, the Sheriff's Office already handles all 911 calls for Sarasota Police and all the fire departments.

Venice officials have been concerned about laying off nine city dispatchers and the impact of losing the local touch that its own dispatchers provide, such as taking police reports and non- emergency calls in the middle of the night. The city has not decided how or if it will continue to provide those services.

The county asked for a commitment by May 19 so it can plan for increased capacity.

While the City Council vote for the deal was unanimous, concerns were raised by individual council members.

"There are an unbelievable amount of red flags," said council member Dave Sherman, who was skeptical about the "free" offer of dispatch service at the same time the Sheriff's office is removing its school resource officers from schools within the city limits of Venice and Sarasota. "We're looking at the carrot and not seeing the trap. I don't want to go ahead and make the deal and then get stuck. …

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