Smooth Transition for Gulfport Police Dispatch

After about 50 days, the changeover of Gulfport Police dispatch services to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office been "quiet," but not without some surprises.

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."

mtober February 25, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Thanks for the update Phil! Glad to hear that things are going well and that to date there are no viable complaints. Hopefully this will ease the concerns of those that continue to express apprehsion about this change.
Greg Stemm February 25, 2012 at 11:20 AM
There are many of us working to make sure that the council members who voted for this lose their jobs in this coming election!
mario cervantes February 25, 2012 at 05:22 PM
mtober February 26, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Greg- I'm a little surprised too at your response. It is working, we and the police are safer, the technology is better and the city / taxpayers are saving money. Why does the negativity and mis-information about this issue continue? Please help me understand.
Philip Penrose February 26, 2012 at 10:33 PM
I haven't been one to go to regular city council meetings nor their workshops, but in the last few weeks of my employment with the city, due to construction work in the city council chambers, the meetings were moved into my "territory" - which was the Hickman Theater. I advise more 'concerned' citizens to attend these meetings. You will certainly get much more first-hand information as well as a chance to speak. Then - you can take that information and act upon it with a bit of knowledge behind you. PS - I have left the employment of the City - just a citizen now. ;)
Juan Happicampa February 27, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Greg, if that is actually YOU, I think your missing the boat, buddy. There was no rational argument to continue operating an obsolete dispatch office at $305 thousand dollars more when a State-of-the-Art service was available. If you would care to make some assemblance of a rational argument, I'm all i's.
Greg Stemm February 28, 2012 at 06:07 PM
If you read Chief Vincent's blog before all of this happened he expressed a number of concerns so to say that he was in total support of this is not quite true. I concerned about a number of things. If someone goes to the Police Dept for help in the middle of the night now there is no one there to help. And having the Fire Dept next door doesn't solve that problem. If you are paniced and seeking help you aren't going to run to the Fire Dept. I spent too much time a couple of years ago arguing for Gulfport's independence on services when the county tried a power grab a few years ago. As far as I'm concerned this outsourcing is what could become the beginning of dismantling others services. In the entire time I was covering council for the paper the people of Gulfport have made it quite clear over and over and over again that they want our services local....no matter what the cost. This isn't the only issue I take exception to with this council. I hate the red light cameras, which blind me and are danagerous and crap like that stupid unenforceble smoking ban on the beach, plus the appointment of this new "Codes Czar" (ok, magistrate...whatever...) I'm voting for Perry and Liedtke
Phil Ammann February 29, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Thanks! Good to be back in the thick of things in Gulfport!
mtober March 01, 2012 at 04:08 AM
Greg - the Chief hadn't done his homework when he made those comments and admitted that. As to getting into the police department, technology was installed to enable that should someone have a need to do so. Re: the red light cameras-- they've proven that they reduce crashes and indeed did so in Gulfport. I don't particularly like them either but that's only because I got a ticket( in Tampa) but guilty as charged and you can bet I pay more attention now. >>
mtober March 01, 2012 at 04:13 AM
>>>With regard to the dismantleing of services- all of the current council has agreed that they want the Police and Fire kept in tact. Soo, here's the dilema- when the budget has another shortfall of $600k to $1mil- where will it come from? If you protect the PD and FD(which I agree with) that leaves $5mil of budget. I don't know your stand on the millage rate but it is unrealistic to believe that the city can maintain the sames services with less revenue and no cut in expense. You can't take $600K - $1mil out of a $5mil budget and keep all the other services in tact. It's basic math and doesn't add up. Yes there are areas where there is opportunity to increase revenues but not to the extent that is required to balance the budget. Perhaps sell some of the City's assets-i.e the Marina, Casino, etc? Some say take it from the reserves. Guess what-the city's been doing that for years rather than use it to maintain our infrastructure. Among other things we now have a 50 yr. old sewer system that is in disrepair. The dispatch was not the first area to be affected by cuts-it just had a higher profile. There have been position cuts going on in this City for the last 4-5 yrs. When positions were empty they were not replaced. (That can only happen for so long before you have to cut actual people.) Staffing is bare bones now.
mtober March 01, 2012 at 04:47 AM
>> If you want to keep all the other services, there has to be money to pay for them. Where will it come from? With all due and sincere respect Greg, you and others of the emotion filled rhetoric with the "Save Our Dispatch" regime don't ever have a viable / realistic answer for that question. As to the magistrate that too saves money and is intended to actually help solve the code violation problems in a collabrative fashion. Today a code violation can linger on for 6 months. The person finally goes to court in Clwtr and we pay OT for a COP and the Code Enforcement Officer and the violater pays an $80 fine and the issue still exists. I've called this City home for over 50 yrs. and I have never seen such blight, flith and disrepair as we have today. Why is that? Because the Mayor and his good ole' boy network did not want to enfoce the codes in years past. ( and yes I consider him a friend and I've told him this) Now we have a City Manager - who also remebers how Gulfpot used to look- and a Council that wants to ensure that ALL areas of Gulfport have curb appeal. With a Magistrate, there will be leeway to work with the violaters (if they indeed want to) and if needed find them assistance if they truly need it. I think that is a win win for all. I don't tell you all of this to question your vote, but simply for you and others to think about the forgoing in a realistic fashion.
mtober March 01, 2012 at 04:48 AM
>>The opponents have yet to articulate any true solutions. Mr Liedtke says we have world class assets that can make money. Ok what are they and how will he do it? He also thinks increasing recycling will put the budget in the black. Not so if you look at the numbers and the offsetting expenses for increased equipment and manpower.The majority of Lietdke's focus has been on signs and attacking his opponent. Mr. Perry says when he needs money he goes and finds more work. How does that translate to the City? he says he wouldn't have done this or that, however, we have yet to hear what he will or what he wants to do. My brother and I grew up with the Perry family. He's a great guy, but nice alone doesn't qualify one for a Council seat. Nor does the fact that your parents were on Council 20 or 40 years ago.The country doesn't need more Bush's or Paul's or Kennedy's for that matter and Gulfport doesn't need more Perry's, Worthington's or Yakes' in City Hall. ( I'd perhaps acquiecse to a Worthington in 10 yrs ;-) Gulfport is evolving and we need to move forward not keep looking back. The current council is diverse, professional, educated, and well informed. While you and I may not always agree with their decisions they do their homework in order to support their votes. Of all of the muddy ideas slung against the wall by the opponents I haven't seen anything stick and that's because none of it so far has had any substance. JM2C :-)
Mark L Grantham March 04, 2012 at 11:22 PM
I have called Gulfport my home since 1996, I am happy and proud to say this to those within my earshot. The city has made many strides, with many more to be made. I am in favor of the new Code Magistrate, the proposed codes, the outsourcing of the dispatchers, not only will the city save money, there is the safety of the citizens to be considered, and the rapidity of the resolution of different conflicts. Gulfport is a diverse and loving community, by no means is it a deed restricted or gated community, there are plenty of those to choose from at the present time, one of the things that I truly find appealing and attractive about Gulfport is that one can go from neighborhood to neighborhood and be amongst different surroundings. My neighborhood is very different from the Marina District, the "Art Village" is very different from the PYCC, and this is to be applauded. I saw it the smoking ban mentioned, I for one am very glad of this ban. There are bans against fires, alcoholic beverages and pets on the beaches, this seems to be in concern for the safety and comfort of the public, something that the smoking ban is also speaking to. Yes, the current City Council has made a few mistakes, who hasn't, in general they are to be congratulated on a job well done, a job that is typically thankless, a job that tends to be filled with resentments. I have to ask myself, would I want this job? The answer I receive s a resounding NO.
mike March 05, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Gulfport should do all its residents a favor and transfer all law enforcement services to the sheriff's office. It would save money and allow the availability of more resources. Gulfport went through this debate about ten years ago. Between gulfport and kenneth city I don't know which one has been dragging feet the longest.
Jennifer March 06, 2012 at 05:05 AM
Your right there is NO one able to open the front door of the city hall. Why? Because one is inside the building anymore. I have used the phone at the front doors after hours and spoke to someone at the pinellas county sheriff office, they could not let me in. So I had to wait for a gulfport police officer to arrive at city hall. The technology is not installed like some think it is


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