Combining 911 services is the right move
We’ve got to give Crittenden County Judge Woody Wheeless much credit for spearheading this latest major endeavor of his to finally, finally, attempt to save the taxpayers a bunch of money down the road by working to consolidate the two 911 emergency response centers.
And, from this initial meeting recently of first responders from West Memphis and the county, including Mayor Marco McClendon and Sheriff Mike Allen, it appears there is an excellence change this “coming together as one” just might happen within the near future.
Let’s remember, this is the very same man who committed himself to bring a primary care hospital back to Crittenden County after the bankruptcy closure of the old Crittenden Regional Hospital. And, he was the man who was able to work a deal with the Arkansas correctional officials to salvage the old hospital and save the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. The old hospital is now a very successful low-security women’s rehabilitation center and an asset to not only West Memphis but also the entire county.
Wheeless seized the opportunity to get the ball rolling on getting West Memphis to consolidate its 911 emergency dispatch center with the one at the sheriff’s office shortly after the mayoral election last year.
The recent meeting of city, county responders is the result of a previous discussion with Mayor McClendon who, at the time, was “very receptive” to the idea and open to further discussions.
For those unaware, over 20 years ago when the new sheriff’s office, detention center and dispatch facility were constructed it was planned that there would be one countywide dispatch and 911 emergency call center and it would be located in the newly built facility designed for the merger.
But, at the time, local politics played a part in making sure that didn’t occur and ever since West Memphis has had its own dispatch center with an annual budget of about $100,000.
While everyone at the initial meeting agreed that there were a considerable amount of details to be worked out none of them felt that they couldn’t be worked out.
One of the big concerns was the fear among West Memphis officials that they would lose control and that was quickly dispelled when Wheeless assured everyone in the room that “everyone involved will have a seat at the table” with equal participation in the decision making.
We would also like to commend Mayor McClendon, Fire Chief Dennis Brewer, his assistant, Police Chief Eddie West and Assistant Police Chief Robert Langston as well as Sheriff Mike Allen as well as Emergency Dispatch Director Ronnie Sturch for their positive attitude and willingness to work with Judge Wheeless on doing something that should have been done decades ago.
As Wheeless pointed out, “I am just thankful we now have leadership willing to make this happen.”
This is just another step into the future of unified cooperation between West Memphis and Crittenden County and something we can all be proud of thanks to the initiative and leadership of Judge Wheeless.