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City worker objects to 911 dispatch plan

The city employees who dispatch police on emergency calls, monitor burglary alarms and check on the prisoners in the city's jail are appealing to the public for help in saving some or all of six full-time and seven part-time jobs that are part of the Police Department.

Lorraine Sloane, the civilian dispatchers' Civil Service Employee Association union representative, took a break from her duties and spoke during the Common Council's Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday night. She asked the public to join her department's lobbying effort to persuade Mayor David Carucci to abandon his plan to turn the city's 911 calls over to the Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Office.

Sloane said public safety could suffer and valuable response time will be lost while messages are relayed first to the county dispatch center at the sheriff's office in Little Valley, and then back to the city's police force and responders in Olean. And she warned that the county's dispatchers don't live in Olean and aren't as familiar with streets and addresses as the city's dispatchers.

Sloane also complained that Carucci has never spoken to the dispatchers about the plan and she doesn't know how many could lose their jobs or if they will be transferred. Opponents of the plan have begun speaking during public comment portions of Council sessions. Resident Tom Mehmel also spoke Tuesday on the proposal, questioning whether the change would be worth the transition time needed.

When asked his position on the matter, Council President Ray Wangelin said turning 911 calls over to the county is a mayoral decision and outside the Council's powers.

The issue likely was discussed by Carucci during recent closed-door union talks and personnel discussions with the Council. Also, the mayor recently has met with Sheriff Dennis B. John to work out any changes needed in radio frequencies and communications towers.

On Wednesday, John said his department has the capability to answer the 15 or 16 911 calls that Olean averages each day in addition to more than 90 calls that generate dispatches of sheriff's officers and other responders in countywide emergencies.

Asked if the county's responses will take longer than the city's, John said he can assure Olean residents that public safety will not suffer.

In other Council committee matters, aldermen unanimously voted to reinstate four crossing-guard positions that were among 13 eliminated recently by the mayor. The legislation's sponsor, Ward 7 Alderman John Padlo, said the vote is symbolic because that, too, is a mayoral decision.

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