City, county 911 Center conversations turn more cordial

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 19, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY ó The tone of the 911 consolidation dispute took a decidedly civil turn this week with the county manager sending a hopeful email to the city, and the interim city manager outlining progress on the issue at Tuesdayís City Council meeting.
Rowan County Manager Gary Page and Interim City Manager Doug Paris met in person Monday with Mayor Susan Kluttz and Chad Mitchell, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
ěWe did have a very cordial and productive meeting yesterday,î Kluttz told City Council Tuesday.
For two weeks, Page and Paris exchanged heated emails and made strongly worded comments about their disagreement over consolidating 911 dispatch services. The city dispatches calls for Salisbury Police, and the county dispatches all others.
Page had invited the city to move into the new 911 telecommunications building and asked for a commitment within 30 days to help the builder. Paris said the city needed more time to study the issue.
The dispute grew to include animal control and fire dispatch, and several candidates for City Council have named improving the city-county relationship as a priority if elected.
But reconciliation, not consolidation, was the theme this week.
ěEven though our commissioners voted to move forward with our new 911 center last night, there are plenty of opportunities for the city and county to work together on saving money,î Page wrote to Paris.
Paris told City Council heís now focused on working out a deal with the county to accomplish three city objectives:
Dedicated dispatcher for Salisbury Fire Department.
Funds for upgrading radios for frontline firefighters to the ěruggedizedî Delta II level, which is submersible.
Possible location of the back-up 911 center at the Salisbury Police Department.
Paris and Page, along with Kluttz and Mitchell, will form a study group to look at what Page called ěpotential areas for savings and service enhancement.î The group will meet in the next two months.
Council members said Paris is serving the city well and has tackled several difficult issues since becoming interim city manager in August.
ěWe as a council will support what you are saying and doing,î Councilman William ěPeteî Kennedy told Paris.
Councilman Brian Miller said while many people were critical of the back-and-forth between Page and Paris that played out in the media, the conversation is moving forward.
ěIím glad you have the dialogue started,î Millers said.
Salisbury Fire Chief Bob Parnell gave a detailed explanation of the importance of a dedicated fire dispatcher and upgraded radios, including a demonstration where Miller tried and failed to operate a regular radio while wearing firefighterís gloves.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.