Steuben County Dispute: What is Happening to the 911 Call Center?

Published 03/10 2014 03:59PM

Updated 03/11 2014 08:38AM

Residents in Steuben County have safety concerns. The Steuben County Sheriff says that the 911 call center is failing because of severe understaffing. However, the County Commissioners who oversee the department admit to there being some problems, but that they have everything under control. It’s a controversial matter that is leaving the residents of Steuben County without a voice.

Monday morning, the County Commissioners held their bi-weekly public meeting. The room was filled to capacity with citizens and county employees. None of which, could say what was on their mind because the Commissioners didn’t allow any comments from the public.

Steuben County Commissioners have managed the 911 dispatch center for the past 22 years. Before 1992 county dispatch was handled by the Sheriffs Department. The current Sheriff, Tim Troyer says the center is in a crisis and believes it would be best handled under his watch. Commissioners however, don’t agree.

"Are there issues? Yes. Are there personnel turnovers? Yes. Are we at crisis? No," said Commissioner Ronald Smith when opening the meeting.

Smith says he feels betrayed by the County Sheriff's Department for saying the 911 dispatch center is at a crisis.

"There are always those who did not understand that you work within the system, you do as best you can, mind your own business, take care of business but there are always those that are in a power ploy with administration," said Smith.

County Sheriff Tim Troyer worked with the department when dispatch was still under the Sheriff’s supervision.

"We’re talking about nearly a year of degrading service that the tax payers are paying for and as a Sheriff I have a duty to inform people that this service is degraded," said Troyer.

Chuck Rowe is just one of the thousands of residents under Steuben County watch.

"I live here just outside of Angola in the county area so when I call 911 it’s those folks that I’m calling. It’s a problem at the least and I want to be sure something is being done," said Rowe.

The current Communications Director for the dispatch center has worked with the department for 34 years. She said all the management issues have caused her to step down, leaving just three qualified full time employees working at the center. Some employees are said to have worked up to 16-hour shifts.

With this said, Smith still doesn’t believe the call center is in a crisis or that tax payers are at risk of not having their call answered in the case of an emergency. "I feel we have enough personnel to make our system work and it will only improve as we gather new folks," said Smith.

Smith also says that he has dozens of applications from people who have applied for a position with dispatch and that staffing is not an issue. In this meeting, no motions were approved to make changes to the call center. The next public meeting will be held in two weeks.

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