By LEIGH HORNBECK
The Times Union (Albany, New York)
MILTON, N.Y. — The desk officers at the Saratoga County Sheriff's Department have emerged out of their dungeon and into the light. Last week, a new communications center went live at the jail.
Gone are the days of sliding along a counter to access different parts of the 911 system. The officers don't have to use a phone book to find the officials they call frequently and don't peer into antiquated computer screens.
The officers now sit or stand at consoles that glide up and down with them. Four flat screens reveal caller information, icons for every active unit and phone numbers for every public official or police officer at the click of a mouse.
One of the new screens shows a map of the county poised to reveal the location of callers dialing 911 from their cellular phones. The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote later this month to direct wireless companies to channel the 911 calls made in the county to the sheriff.
Officer Debra Jones, seated in a Star Trek-like, ergo-dynamic chair made specifically for 911 dispatchers, said the upgrades have made it easier to come to work.
"It's all more comfortable, it's a completely different environment," Jones said.
The most striking difference after the sight of the new consoles is the sunlight filtering through the windows, which was absent from the old communications center in the middle of the jail.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote Tuesday on a law that would direct all wireless providers to route 911 calls made from cellphones to the communications center at the jail. They are now routed to State Police in Albany.
The supervisors will also consider adding a 30-cent surcharge onto everyone's bill who has a cellphone registered in Saratoga County. The fee, collected once a month, will partially fund upkeep of the 911 system.
Sheriff James Bowen hired four new desk officers and 10 additional correction officers over the last 2( years to prepare for the new communication center. In the old center, the 911 dispatchers were responsible for both taking calls and letting visitors in and out of the jail. The new correction officers took over the job of watching the door when the dispatchers moved into their new room.
Bowen is pleased about the center, but said it isn't big enough. He is pushing the Board of Supervisors to erect a public safety building, separate from the jail.
"They should be under one roof with the county emergency services staff," Bowen said, referring to Paul Lent and the county fire investigator Ed Tremblay, who work out of a former bomb shelter in the basement of a building on West High Street in Ballston Spa.
Copyright 2007 The Hearst Corporation
All Rights Reserved
New communications center goes live in N.Y.