Tonawanda News — At 3 p.m. Thursday the North Tonawanda police dispatch outfit will cease to exist.
Following years of debate and months of heated exchanges between unions and the city, the six civilian dispatchers the city has employed for years will report for work in Lockport Sunday under the direction of the Niagara County Sheriff.
But even as city leaders attempt to quell the anxieties associated with the move — among police officers, union members and in some cases, residents — they also have presented a sense of optimism that the change might actually improve the first recourse in emergencies: 911.
That line will now be drawn outside of the Lumber City, where a top-of-the-line dispatch center has been up and running, but underutilized, for years.
Police Chief Randy Szukala said he’s seen the new center and worked with those in charge there to make the transition a smooth one, prefaced with the idea that six individuals familiar with the city and its many idiosyncrasies will still be on call.
“That should give the public confidence that NT won’t be lost in the shuffle,” he said. “We may be losing dispatchers from this building but we’re taking our dispatchers who are very capable, very knowledgeable, and we’re sharing our expertise as much with the county as the county is with us.”
He also noted that the city and county decided it would be best to make the shift ahead of the initial July 1 deadline for consolidation due to next week’s Independence Day holiday, but also to work out any kinks that may arise through the change.
But those critical of the venture still point to holes in the arrangement, which Mayor Rob Ortt and council members said will save the city more than $1 million during the next five years.