By Michael Regan, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
— From Police Chief Randy Szukala's perspective, the transfer of North Tonawanda's dispatch service to Niagara County went smoothly.
Since 3 p.m. on Thursday, when the city's service went down and was picked up at a dispatch station abutting the Niagara County Sheriff's Office, one of the biggest steps to date was taken in the city's march toward shared services and consolidation.
The six city employees who will now be part of a county union will spend the week in training before donning the uniforms required at the county dispatch center, while they will officially begin their new roles early next week.
"The transfer seemed to work out well for both sides," Szukala said. "Sunday was the first day for the dispatchers at the county."
The head of the police department also noted that for the meantime, he will use an additional officer to cover the tasks of routinely checking on prisoners, which the North Tonawanda Police Benevolent Association has claimed will lead to drastic overtime.
"That will be their assignment," Szukala said. "The officer will be assigned for the desk just to feel this process out, as far as prisoner movement and window traffic."
When not serving in those roles, when there are no prisoners in the city jail, the additional officers will be out on patrol.
But the union representing the dispatchers during their time in North Tonawanda said they are still pursuing arbitration after talks with Mayor Rob Ortt broke down. CSEA Unit 7692 President Bill Davignon said he's also trying to prove that the city violated civil service law.
Ortt acknowledged that the union is still trying to make headway on seniority issues in the transfer to the county, but does not forsee it becoming a stumbling block. He also credited Sheriff James Voutour and Szukala with successfully managing the nuts and bolts intracacies of the transfer.
"The debate is done, I don't expect there to be any major issues," Ortt said. "The focus now is providing a public service."
Szukala also noted that city residents can still contact police directly for non-emergency situations. Rather than dialing 911, with those calls heading to the county, non-emergency calls may be placed by dialing 692-4111.
Contact Reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext 4115.