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Sheriff: communication center should remain under this office


The Salida city council insists it should “share control” of the Chaffee County Communications Center and that city officials should be given greater control in decision making than the current proposal allows.  We disagree.

I adamantly opposed the initial proposal to transfer authority for operation of the center from the sheriff to the county administrator and I firmly oppose having the center, perhaps the most critical component of public safety operations, controlled by committee.

Emergency communications operations are an essential public safety function that belongs under the sheriff’s office.  Neither the office of the county administrator nor the board of county commissioners is structured or purposed to deal with emergency management in the way the sheriff’s office is.


*The sole problem facing the communications center is funding, not management or satisfaction of the agencies it serves.  There is simply no justification or good reason for changing the oganizational structure of the center.

*Having the communications function transferred to the county administrator, an appointed official who operates under the direction of the county commissioners, would set a bad precedent of having the responsibility and authority presently under the office of an elected official removed from his control and surrendered to an appointed official.

*Accountability would thereby become diffused: ultimately, instead of the sheriff being answerable directly to the electorate for the communications center’s operation, accountability is “shared” among the county administrator and three county commissioners.

We agree to an advisory role for Salida, but not a policy-making one.

*Agencies served do have a say in the operations of the center by virtue of their membership on the 911 Board and participation in the Chaffee County Emergency Services Council that meets monthly.  Creating an additional committee would be redundant at best, cumbersome and unwieldy at worse.

*The communications center at present operates under a tight command structure, with the manager reporting directly to the sheriff.  Allowing a committee to have a greater role than advisory would dilute the efficiency of that structure.  Emergency services should not be run by committee.

*With authority to make decisions is attached the responsibility, accountability, and liability for the consequences of those decisions.  Now, the sheriff assumes those roles.  Under a committee, accountability is diffuse and unspecified.  How can that work?

*The system works well now.  The sheriff treats the various agencies served by the center as clients, not as subservient elements.  Proposed changes in procedures are discussed with the agency heads before being implemented.  Satisfaction with services is high among the agencies.

There is one point on which the council and I do agree: Councilman Mike Bowers, an employee of the sheriff’s office, should recuse himself from any further discussion regarding this issue.  The conflict of interest is starkly obvious.