NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB)- For the past five years, North Tonawanda has relied on Niagara County dispatch services. The union representing city police officers wants to reinstate a local 911 dispatch center, calling it a life or death issue.
Dozens of people living in North Tonawanda have put out yard signs supporting the idea. An online petition has gathered more than 540 signatures.
“There’s a lot at stake for citizen safety and officer safety,” said Eric Herbert, the social media representative for the North Tonawanda Police Benevolent Association.
The PBA argues that since 2012, when Niagara County took over dispatch services for the city, response times have slowed and there’s been too much traffic on the radio.
“We haven’t been able to substantiate some of the claims, that’s the holdup,” said Mayor Arthur Pappas. “Now we can possibly work around that.”
He told News 4 that PBA leaders and Police Chief William Hall approached him Tuesday afternoon with proposals they worked out with Niagara County Sheriff Jim Voutour.
It’s the first step towards a solution after months of debate.
“I look at this as being a very positive start and the proposals put forth certainly seem like they’re worth pursuing and the council agreed,” said Pappas.
Pappas couldn’t give us any details about what ideas are included in the proposals.
He told News 4 the city has been caught in the middle. As the Police Department’s employer, a decision will financially impact the city but the city doesn’t currently have any control over dispatching services.
Pappas said city leaders have been trying to bring PBA leaders and Niagara County officials together to come up with a solution. Now, they can move forward to improve dispatch services for North Tonawanda.
“How it can work better or what ways can we tweak this to make it work for everyone in terms of safety first, cost and how it’s going to benefit the whole community,” said Pappas.
A PBA representative received applause when he announced at the packed council meeting they will start conversations with the city and county to come up with a compromise.
“If there’s even a glimmer of hope to address some of the issues, we’re going to take a time out and look at all of the options,” said Herbert. “We feel encouraged by talking to the city officials and the Sheriff’s Office and so we want to give it some time over the next week or so to talk, negotiate and see what we can come up with and hopefully resolve some issues.”
Sheriff Voutour told News 4 he is looking forward to working with the PBA and city leaders.