Borough council opts to close police dispatch center

Larry McGuire
Of The Spirit

Punxsutawney Borough Council voted at a special meeting on Tuesday to officially close the Punxsutawney Borough Police Department dispatch center, effective Dec. 31 of this year.

Borough Council President Brian Smith opened the meeting by saying that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the future of the dispatch center.

Smith asked if anyone had signed up to speak from the audience, which numbered nearly 20 people.

When there was no response, Smith asked for comments from the members of council.

"This has been discussed before, with no action taken and has come up once again for discussion about doing something with the dispatch center, to either close it or cut it back and turn it over to Jefferson County 911, which is why we're here tonight," Smith said.

Public Safety Chair Toby Santik asked for the floor to discuss the reasons for closing the dispatch center.

"I've been involved with the Jefferson County Commissioners in discussing this over the last two years," Santik said.

He said it’s an antiquated system that has become obsolete and, because of its nature, is redundant.

"The new 911 center is the exception to that rule," Santik said. "It's so advanced that they can even text emergency calls to the officers out in the field."

Santik said that the cost of operating both facilities is “astronomical.”

"I know what we pay out is over six figures," Santik said. "Tax dollars are funding the dispatch center, and you are getting charged on your phone bill to pay for the 911 center over in Brookville. We are the only borough in Jefferson County that runs its own dispatch center."

He added that everyone else is “moving along just fine” while being dispatched from 911.

Santik said, in light of what he spoke about at the special meeting, that he would like to see the borough move forward to get in line and join everyone else as soon as possible.

Public Works Chair Jim Bianco said that he would hate to see the borough lose any more jobs. "It's a hard thing to separate, because there aren't very many jobs, and that would be a tough thing to lose more jobs," Bianco said. "I wish there was a way to keep it open and not pay double for dispatching services."

Council member Jeanne Porada said that just because Punxsutawney is the only one that has its own dispatch center, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing.

Smith said that he agreed that it’s a hard decision to make. "When you look at the reason behind it, being taxed on our phone bills for dispatch besides our tax dollars and the fire department and ambulance already being dispatched through 911, it just makes sense to move ahead with this," he added.

He said if they wanted to make a decision at Tuesday's meeting, he would need a motion and a second.

Council Vice President Larry Chenoga made the motion to close the Punxsutawney Borough Police Department dispatch center as of Dec. 31. The motion was seconded by Santik, and in a roll call vote, it carried 6-1, with Porada being the only member voting no.

A motion was made to close the meeting following the vote.