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BY REBECCA BARNABY
FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Colonial Beach and Westmoreland County officials are talking about consolidating the dispatching of emergency calls.
The Colonial Beach Town Council heard a presentation from Westmoreland County Sheriff C.O. Balderson at a recent work session about the idea, which he said would save both the county and the town money and improve public safety.
Balderson made it clear that he thinks the Colonial Beach Police Department is capable of providing emergency service to town residents. But he said when a town resident calls 911, the call is routed to the Sheriff's Office dispatch center in Montross, then relayed back to the town's emergency dispatch.
"Bottom line: You're losing time," said Balderson, who added that every second counts when someone is having a heart attack or there has been a car accident.
Councilwoman Wanda Goforth said she has been told the town's dispatch equipment is outdated and will be expensive to upgrade. Councilman Tim Curtin added that some of the town's equipment, such as the phone system and two-way radios, cannot be upgraded or repaired at this point--a point Balderson said he had confirmed with Motorola.
In response to a question from Councilman Gary Seeber, the sheriff said the county upgrades its emergency equipment more often than the town.
"If you integrate [the Colonial Beach dispatch] now, it's a whole lot cheaper," said Balderson.
Councilman Tommy Edwards expressed concern for the jobs of the town's dispatch employees and asked if they could be integrated into the county's dispatch staff. Balderson said town dispatch employees could apply and be considered for positions with an integrated dispatch system.
"I want it to be known as far as I'm concerned, I'm not a hatchet man," the sheriff said.
Interim Colonial Beach police Chief William Seay said consolidation would help the county as well as the town.
"The first thing that jumps out at me is saving money," he said.
Seay said that after consolidation, Colonial Beach could keep a police department receptionist Monday through Friday, with officers on duty 24/7, much like the Warsaw Police Department.
Balderson said he would leave the consolidation process up to the Town Council. Both Mayor Mike Ham and Councilman Jim Chiarello expressed support for the idea.
"It sounds like a bright future for Colonial Beach and Westmoreland County," Chiarello said.