City council tours dispatch site

Published 8:26 am Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Four Bogalusa City Council members toured the 911 Emergency Dispatch Center in Sheridan on Monday to gain a better understanding of the pros and cons of moving the 911 center from the Bogalusa Police Department to the proposed location.

A proposed ordinance to move the 911 Emergency Dispatch Center was tabled at the Nov. 17 meeting so the council could gain a better understanding of the issue.

The proposed ordinance had its opponents, including BPD Sgt. James Cockrell, who was the most vocal against the move, citing an undue financial burden on the city. He said the move would cost the city approximately $300,000 in salaries and modernizing of equipment. Cockrell is also a member of the Office and Professional Employees International Union. Dispatch Supervisor Shauna Henke also spoke out against the move at the last meeting.

Councilman At-Large and City Council President Teddy Drummond, District A Councilwoman Gloria Kates, District B Councilwoman Tamira Smith and District E Councilwoman Sherry Fortenberry all made the trip out to Sheridan to visit the facility. Drummond and Fortenberry said they liked by what they saw and learned.

“I’m highly impressed with the facility,” Drummond said. The building is like Fort Knox. These guys put in a lot of thought, effort and research into it because Homeland Security told them the call center has to be the hub of all your communications during a disaster. You don’t need to worry about your safety doing it.”

Drummond said he sees relocation of the call center as a good thing.

“I think it would be a win-win situation for the city and parish,” Drummond said. “You’d have a police officer working side by side with a Sheriff’s Office dispatcher. I believe the two departments could work more hand in hand like this.”

Fortenberry echoed Drummond’s sentiments.

“The facility was very nice and I was very impressed,” Fortenberry said. “I got some of my questions answered. It would free up three firemen that could be put on the road, and not close any police department or fire department. I just think it’s a good thing.”

At the Nov. 17 meeting, Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette said change often scares people. She said she was willing to try the move, provided it wasn’t cost prohibitive as Cockrell indicated it would be.

“I don’t think it will cost the city $300,000,” Fortenberry said. “It’s a change from they’re used to, and not a lot of people are open to change. In my opinion, it would be a good change.”

Kates and Smith were unavailable for comment Tuesday morning.