Ogensburg accusses Sparta dispatch center of slow response during emergencies

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:51

    SPARTA-Both sides have hearing problems. The Ogdensburg Fire Department says it hasn't heard the calls from the nearby Sparta dispatcher in time to adequately respond to emergency scenes. The Sparta Police Department, which operates the dispatch service for neighboring municipalities, says it hasn't heard of any problem. "No one has contacted us about a problem with the radio dispatch service," said Sparta police chief Ernie Reigstad. "From time to time, there's always going to be issues. But any time there's a problem, the protocol is to contact us about it." Ogdensburg Fire Chief Mark Batty brought his concerns before his local township council last week (See story on page 6). Batty complained that his department's truck equipped with the "jaws of life" was not dispatched to an accident scene three weeks ago until 10 minutes after the crash. Although no lives were lost, Batty said that just five minutes can mean the difference between life and death. Batty also said that he had contacted Sparta officials to request a tape of the incident in question so that he could examine the timing of the initial call reporting the accident to Sparta and the call to Ogdensburg alerting the rescue squad. He said he did not receive the tape. Reigstad denied being contacted by anyone from the Ogdensburg fire department and said that had he been called immediately, action would have been taken. "My concern is that no one has contacted us about it," said Reigstad. "Sometimes it's a problem with equipment. Sometimes it's a problem with people. We're constantly re-evaluating and learning from any experience." Sparta has a three-year $112,000 contract with Ogdensburg to provide dispatch service when no one in the town is available to answer 9-1-1 calls or emergency requests for assistance. The contract, which also includes Franklin, expires in 2006. Batty also mentioned prior problems with the service in the past six months and questioned the contract, which he said absolves Sparta of any liability and transfers the responsibility to Ogdensburg. Reigstad said the charges were counterproductive and that any issue dealing with emergency service is serious business. "This isn't the way to resolve this," he said. "We're going to look at the incident at our end and take the corrective action immediately." Sparta fire department officials said they have had no problems receiving the dispatch signals, nor have the Ogdensburg police and emergency services squads. "I am not worried about who's right or wrong. If our dispatchers were wrong, we have to make the corrective action to see that it doesn't happen again. If it's on the other end, they need to take the corrective action." Reigstad said that the groups meet periodically, and that Sparta tries "to keep an open door policy." He added, "Dispatchers are their lifelines. When a fireman goes into a burning building, they rely on that dispatch when they yell for help. They are getting the help." Agreeing that if there is a problem, it must be corrected, Reigstad concluded, "I back the concerns 100 percent." Sparta Mayor Ailish Hambel said she and Ogdensburg Mayor Jacqueline Pietrodangelo will be meeting soon to discuss the situation but is confident the problem will be solved with difficulty. Carol Dunbar contributed to this report.