Getting the 911 question off the City of St. Pete's dime

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I noted with some interest today that among others Steve Kornell indicated there had been some conversations with Chief Harmon about consolidating the St. Pete Communications Center with the County 911 Center.

Not sure about the conversations, but one thing I am pretty sure about is this whole effort will go absolutely nowhere if left up to Harmon and the Command staff.  Three of the four are eligible to retire and the last thing they want is any controversy inside or outside the agency.

You’ll get a lot of nice words, some platitudes, a lot about what a fine job the City Comm Center does, and they do, but you will get no focused effort on looking seriously at the issue.

The St. Petersburg Communications Center is a significant part of the Police Department’s budget. The total Police Department budget (Page 19 Fund 001 General Fund Department 140 Police) is just about $86 million, and the Communication Center is 8% to 10% of the total amount.

That’s around $7 million saved, plus some ancillary costs, less the cost the Sheriff would charge for dispatch services. Assuming for a moment the Sheriff would charge about1/2 the current budget, the total savings could be almost 25%  of the City’s Budget short fall.

Has the City made a formal request to the Sheriff for a quote and a plan on how a consolidation would take place? I doubt it.

This is a 100% doable project, but it will take some time to put in place. To have a serious 2013 budget impact it has to start right now. The Mayor should appoint a committee to oversee the effort that include some people like Mike Connors, Chief Harmon Tish Elston to open a dialog with the Sheriff.

If Foster is waiting for Harmon or any of his senior staff to take the lead on this one, the Mayor may as well get a folding chair and go out on the grass at City Hall and watch it grow.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.