By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
LOCKPORT — The Niagara County Sheriff’s Department will receive a $400,000 state grant for its dispatch center on behalf of the county and North Tonawanda, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced.
Sheriff James Voutour and his department has been attempting to procure the funding since February as the North Tonawanda and the county were in discussions to combine the city’s police dispatch unit with his office.
That transfer officially took place in July, sending the city’s six police dispatchers to Lockport under Voutour’s control.
A five-year arrangement now in place will have the city pay the county for dispatchers’ salaries and the expenses related to their move for half of 2012 ($237,000) and all of 2013 ($436,000), while those figures will decrease by 25 percent each year, beginning in 2014 until the costs are entirely absorbed into the county in 2017.
Many of the details for the use of the funding have yet to be decided, Voutour and Mayor Rob Ortt said, though it will likely include downsizing some of North Tonawanda’s financial obligations to the county. However, it may not be applied to offset the costs of the dispatchers’ salaries.
“Our intention is to use every penny we get to offset the costs from a county-city perspective,” Voutour said. “For example our dispatcher have quite a bit more emergency medical training than North Tonawanda’s (dispatchers). There was a cost associated with that and that was a cost that the county would be billing North Tonawanda for under normal circumstances.”
The Local Government Efficiency grant is part of Cuomo’s agenda to address rising costs such as property tax rates throughout New York state, which remain among the highest in the country.
Ortt said training, equipment, uniforms and updated technology in police cruisers related to the county’s dispatch center may be some of the scenarios where the funding may be applied.
“When we moved the dispatchers we thought it was good even without the grant,” Ortt said. “But now it’s going to save us money and offset some of the costs with the county.”
The funding haul is part of $4 million passed out by the state to 21 municipalities that are reducing the cost of government.
The governor’s announcement comes as the dispatchers accused the county of breaking state civil service law by discounting seniority issues following their transfer.
Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.