Nearly two years ago, Police Chief Rusty York warned that after new equipment was bought, the basement of the City-County Building would no longer be big enough to house the combined city-county emergency dispatch center. York suggested the city and county might have to buy or lease a building.
But a new site was untenable, both for political and fiscal reasons. The city had already committed to spending $14.5 million to buy what is now Citizens Square.
City officials reached agreement with county officials on sharing space in the City-County Building only after much debate and promises that, together, the two buildings would have more than enough space.
After York’s warning, both Mayor Tom Henry and the county commissioners said they were committed to keeping the dispatchers in the building now known as the Edwin J. Rousseau Centre.
The county spent $4 million to renovate the building, yet – inexplicably and irresponsibly – officials failed to plan for accommodations for the dispatch center.
Now, with the approval from the city and county councils to buy the new computer and radio equipment, county officials are in crisis mode, scrambling to find the center a home.
Two years after committing to keep dispatchers in the building, commissioners are faced with the decision of finding another site or spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to expand the basement dispatch center.
Moving to another site would be counter to a main reason for combining the city and county public safety departments in the same building – to bring public safety officers together. After Evansville and Vanderburgh County combined their dispatch operations in a separate building, officials said their only regret was that the dispatchers were not in the same building as officers.
County officials need to examine other ways to configure the building to accommodate the dispatch center for a cost lower than expanding the basement office.
And the commissioners, who own and operate the building, need to explain why they didn’t plan for the inevitable.