By Joyce May
Killeen Daily Herald
GATESVILLE – Following several months marked by differences of opinion, miscommunication and ultimately the failure to launch a proposed centralized 911 dispatch center, Coryell County has terminated its interlocal agreement with the city of Gatesville.
Gatesville City Manager Roger L. Mumby, who was in attendance for commissioners' unanimous vote Monday, said the Gatesville City Council would also go through the formality of rescinding its approval of the document.
County Judge John Firth said he doesn't believe any expenses were incurred during the eight months the agreement was in effect, but the county could potentially be liable for any that were.
The previous commissioners' court approved the interlocal agreement on Nov. 13, 2006, with approval from the Gatesville City Council coming the following day.
Firth said the action now leaves the county with several possible courses of action. Those include, Firth said, pursuing permission from the Central Texas Council of Governments to establish a remote public safety answering point (PSAP) at the sheriff's office; reaching an agreement with the city of Gatesville to "swap" 911 dispatch responsibilities and therefore move the existing PSAP at the Gatesville police department to the sheriff's office; seeking permission to add a third PSAP to the county and have it located at the sheriff's office; or do nothing.
Commissioners are considering establishing a study group to best determine which course of action will best address the issue, which Firth said is "to achieve the most effective communications and coordination interoperability to ensure that lives and property can be saved when emergencies occur."
The possibility of hiring an independent consultant to study the communications interoperability issues within the county is also being considered.
Firth said commissioners will be reviewing a study conducted by the Heart of Texas Council of Governments conducted in the Waco area to determine what that study revealed that may be useful for Coryell County to consider. The county also plans to bring the issue up Thursday at the Central Texas COG meeting.
The original agreement called for a five-member board to oversee the proposed dispatch center comprised of the Gatesville police chief, Coryell County sheriff, emergency medical services director of Coryell Memorial Hospital, the Coryell County emergency management coordinator and the Gatesville fire chief.
The initial agreement also called for the county and city of Gatesville to equally share costs of operating the center, which would have been located in a building that formerly housed the Fort Gates fire station.
One week after the commissioners' action, Bruce Beals approached the court, expressing concern that Copperas Cove had not been included in the discussions concerning the centralized dispatch center. He also raised concerns that Copperas Cove citizens, via their tax dollars, would be supporting a large portion of the center while deriving no direct benefit from it.
In early January and following the seating of a new commissioners' court, a workshop was held between all of the involved parties to allow for an open dialog on the topic.
Officials from Copperas Cove, Gatesville, Coryell County and the Central Texas Council of Governments discussed the proposed centralized dispatch center, which officials say is needed to improve the efficiency of the system and hopefully help save lives by improving response time and preventing dropped calls.
Attendants left seemingly on the same page that public safety was the top concern and plans to combine 911 emergency dispatching for the sheriff's department and the city of Gatesville would move forward, but the county also would begin formulating a long-range plan to centralize emergency response communications.
Later in January, the late County Judge Riley J. Simpson submitted a revised version of the interlocal agreement, but no action was ever taken on the revision.
A workshop was held in Copperas Cove in March to further discuss the matter, and miscommunication still seemed to
plague the project as some officials said they were under the impression that the project was on hold pending further action from Copperas Cove.
Copperas Cove officials, however, indicated that they were unaware that the project was on hold.
Contact Joyce May at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-0428