Covington fights to merge 9-1-1 centers

by Dan Wells - email/bio

COVINGTON, KY (WXIX) -- Covington officials are hoping to consolidate 9-1-1 services with Kenton County.

It is a move that could lay off more than a dozen dispatchers and now its in the hands of a Kenton County Circuit Court Judge.

No word on when a decision will be made but dispatchers filed a lawsuit against the city of Covington months ago and people on both sides of this issue say it has been a very long and messy fight.

"I think the city has an obligation to maintain the equipment and provide the city with the best service," says Covington Police Chief Lee Russo.

"We feel that our system is in crisis and we need to take action as soon as possible"

For months, the city of Covington has wanted Kenton County to take over dispatching police and firefighters.  But an existing labor contract with city dispatchers has made that process long and filled with court battles.

Currently if you dial 911 in the city of Covington you call actually goes across the street to the police department but that night not be the case if a court rules other wise. In fact the 9-1-1 center may go to the county and that would leave 14 city dispatchers without a job.

Janet New, a spokesperson for AFSCME Union says, "A lot of people have been here 20 years. There are a lot of people with seniority and single parents and a lot of people would be effected."

Covington Police Chief Lee Russo says the city hasn't upgraded it's communications equipment in years. Putting not only police officers and firefighters at risk but residents too.

Russo says, "from my point a view it's absolutely a life safety measure. The reality here is a citizen picks up the phone and dials 911 in an emergency and they expect that system to work and somebody to be on the other side of that call. Then dispatch the appropriate rescue services.  Right now i can't 100% guarantee that is going to happen "

Both sides says they hope for a definitive answer from the court soon.

"I would suspect the ruling on that may come down prior to the holiday possibly in the new year and at that point we will forge ahead with whatever decision is rendered."

Now, union represenatitives  say if they lose their fight to keep the 911 center there should be a possibility to bump to other city positions.

On the other hand they fear if the city is *not* honoring this contract, why would they honor that clause either?