LOWELL | Delaying a decision on an agreement with the Lake County Sheriff's Department two weeks ago has put a kink in the town's emergency dispatching operation.
While the Lowell Town Council unanimously agreed Monday to a pilot program that would merge Lake County and Lowell E-911 systems, it put the March 1 deadline for the deal uncomfortably close, Lowell Police Chief John Shelhart said.
After he gave notice of the March 1 deadline, one dispatcher chose to retire and another announced plans to retire, he said.
"Obviously, we're in a bad position," Shelhart said.
The retirements will leave the department with two full-time and two part-time dispatchers, he said. Even if the Lake County Council approves the agreement this week, the department still would be behind in installing the necessary equipment.
"I don't think this compromises safety," Shelhart said. "We'll do whatever we have to do to keep the dispatch center going."
Those working at the center will need to be scheduled on 12-hour shifts, and two officers trained in dispatching may have to be pulled off the street, he said.
For several months, Shelhart has worked to secure the merger because he says it will save the town money and give Lowell dispatchers a leg up for employment when the countywide dispatching consolidation goes into effect in 2014.
As approved, the agreement requires Lowell pay $100,000 annually to the county to hire two full-time county police dispatchers and an unspecified number of part-time dispatchers to handle Lowell calls.
Lowell Clerk Treasurer Judy Walters said the town currently pays $275,000 annually for dispatcher salaries and benefits.