It has now been almost two months since the City of Gulfport transferred police dispatch services to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
The question: How is it going?
After the dust settled, and all the debate from last year calmed down, the transfer seems to be smooth.
That is how Dan Carpenter sees it.
As the Director of Administrative Services for the City of Gulfport, Carpenter would be one of the first to know how the project is going.
He is the "numbers guy" for the City of Gulfport. Carpenter would be particularly interested in any change in the budget, since all of the city's requests for payment cross his desk.
"I've been following it pretty close," Carpenter said about the transition. "I get to see the big picture."
When asked about cost overruns for the contentious subject of Gulfport's dispatch changeover, Carpenter said he would "take an opposite opinion."
"It's really been quiet," Carpenter said. "There has been very little negative talk."
In November, the Gulfport City Council agreed to spend $73,795 in initial costs to relocate Gulfport police dispatch services to the Pinellas County Sheriff Office. Those included one-time-only fees for data transfer, as well as equipping 16 police units with communications tools to access the PCSO Computer Aided Dispatch system.
Carpenter stressed that any substantial changes in the budget would eventually have to go to the City Council for reassessment.
"By code there are set rules, and the city manager has his duties," he said. "Things go beyond that, and it goes back to council to appropriate money."
Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent agrees that the move has gone smoothly, but not without some surprises.
"There have been some things that have been a little bit higher," Vincent said. Data transfer, for one.
The biggest cost incurred was the conversion of Gulfport's information systems to fit with the Pinellas County's CAD system. Two separate databases needed conversion—the existing police and dispatch records.
According to Vincent, the biggest sudden change was the final price tag of data transfer. The service cost the city $47,475 for police records and $17,800 for dispatch records. Initial estimates were half that—around $30,000 for both.
Although data conversion rose to double its original rate, others were significantly less. Upgrading police cruisers to use the Pinellas CAD turned out to be unnecessary. Those savings offset most of the data transfer price overruns.
"We had to buy much less hardware," Vincent said.
"At first, we thought we needed brand new GPS (Global Positioning Systems) for all the units," he added. "It turns out that what we have now will work with the system."
In addition to lower hardware costs, Vincent said savings in other areas will help pay for the dispatch transfer. Lower individual report costs were one, personnel savings were another.
"We had an officer retire at the end of January," Vincent said. The department, while going through the process of replacing the officer, will use the savings to keep the budget in balance.
"The process of finding the right replacement should take us into late March," Vincent said. "Let me make it clear, we are not holding vacancies. It takes time to do it right."
Vincent maintains a running list of the costs associated with the PCSO dispatch changeover, and regularly checks the items "one-by-one."
As far as the suggestion of longer response times in the wake of the changeover, Vincent was characteristically straightforward.
"We had vocal complaints from some residents about response times under the new system," the chief said, "and in every case, we pulled the records."
"I have yet to find a legitimate concern," he added." It just wasn't there."