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July 25, 2014

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Originally published: 2014-06-25 11:26:04
Last modified: 2014-06-25 11:26:47

Boone refuses to join Blowing Rock in countywide 911 service

Anna Oakes

The Boone Town Council has opted not to pursue consolidation of its 911 emergency dispatch system with Watauga County and Blowing Rock, following several years of discussion.

Members of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners for several years have advocated for consolidation of local dispatch systems, with former commissioner Vince Gable in particular championing the proposition.

Advocates say it would provide better service to residents by eliminating confusion about jurisdictions, providing future cost savings and easing compliance with future state regulations.

Following the Blowing Rock Town Council's April 2012 approval of consolidation, a new 911 communications center opened in July of that year, with Jeff Virginia hired as emergency services director to oversee the center's operations. But Boone has delayed a decision on consolidation until this spring, taking more time to evaluate the proposal amid concerns about costs and response times.

Boone Police Chief Dana Crawford submitted a two-page report on the consolidation proposal to Boone Town Manager Greg Young on March 28. Crawford concluded that the proposal's disadvantages and unanswered questions outweighed any advantages.

"In my mind I think it would lower our services," Crawford said at a Boone Town Council budget workshop held earlier this month. "Our dispatchers understand our issues in the town. If we give that away, we won't get it back."

Crawford also determined the town would not realize the cost savings promised by consolidation advocates due to the need to find new revenue for GIS services, necessary upgrades and other factors.

"There was no cost savings," Crawford said.

"I think that's what's important for the public to know -- this was carefully evaluated," Boone Town Councilwoman Lynne Mason said. "This retains the ability for the town to be more responsive."

Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque did not respond to questions about Boone's decision as of presstime Tuesday. 
For more information and stories, see The Blowing Rocket.

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