Friday, September 5, 2008

Shaking it up at the 911 center

Lots of news about the Dane County 911 center this week, both as reported by the WSJ.

First, Kathleen Falk and Joe Norwick's budget priorities are shot down by the center's own board:
Falk has proposed borrowing $163,000 next year to buy police dispatch software that would allow 911 operators to get more information from callers, send the optimal police resources and improve quality control checks on police calls.

But the 911 board, which advises the 911 director on budget matters, voted 8-1 to remove the software from next year's budget proposal and spend the money instead on replacing the center's outdated computer dispatch system.

Second, Norwick resigns, this coming months after his resignation was originally called for over his less-than stellar handling of the Brittany Zimmermann case.

From my outsider's perspective, it's obviously difficult to figure out exactly what's going on. I can only hope that, whatever comes of all this shakin' up, it does something to improve the way in which our 911 center handles calls, and to improve the working conditions for those dispatchers.

Judging by these two articles, though, it would appear that there are some serious differences of opinion and priority between the center's board and the county leadership, namely Falk and Norwick. To be fair, after Falk first proposed borrowing money to upgrade the dispatch system, she agreed to add a plan to borrow money for upgrading the actual computers used in the center once concerns were raised by the board about the aging infrastructure.

So why not do both?
Norwick said the center is already taking on other major projects next year including a new $30 million countywide radio system, a redesign of the 911 center that will increase the number of consoles from 13 to 18 and the addition of nine more staff.

"To complete a (computer system assessment) is going to be tough enough," Norwick said.

Maybe his resignation, and the subsequent hiring of a (hopefully) more qualified director, will lead to a different response to this issue, something like "It's going to be tough, but we'll do it because it's important."

UPDATE TO ADD: I almost completely missed this story from Isthmus and dogged reporter Jason Shepard regarding the center oversight board's failure to do performance evaluations on Norwick. D'oh.

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