Slow down before privatizing

The Webster County Telecommunications Board should answer the unanswered questions before making a decision

The Webster County Telecommunications Board will meet today, and it’s expected to vote on privatizing the management of the local 911 dispatch center.

We urge the board members to slow down and postpone the decision. It’s a momentous choice that impacts the work of dispatchers who handle life and death situations every day.

It’s a decision that should not be made unless all of the facts are in hand, and all the conceivable questions about the proposed change have been answered.

The board members have expressed concerns about the oversight of the center. They have not, in our opinion, explained why those concerns should lead to hiring a company, perhaps from as far away as New Jersey, to manage the dispatch center.

Maybe the board should consider things that can potentially be done internally and locally to make the desired improvements in the center. It’s possible that the Telecommunications Board is stuck with rules and bylaws that are now outdated. Perhaps they can be examined and updated to bring about improvements.

For instance, adding representatives of the local fire departments and emergency medical services to the board, to work alongside the law enforcement agencies, is a change that ought to be considered.

As they ponder their options, board members should consider the petition signed by some 200 people, including dispatchers, deputy sheriffs and other emergency responders who called for the Webster County Sheriff’s Department to resume management of the 911 center. Many of the people who signed that petition are actually on the streets every day, responding to emergencies and crimes. They have firsthand knowledge of what’s needed, and their ideas should be heard.

We ask the board members to answer the unanswered questions and give the public a full accounting of why privatizing is a good choice. Dot every “i” and cross every “t.” We think a decision cannot be made until that is done. We’re betting the public agrees.