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County commission chairman, police chief react to Abbeville dispatch transition

Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 5:35 PM CDT
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ABBEVILLE, Ala. (WTVY) - Could Henry County law enforcement be one step closer to having a centralized dispatch center? The Abbeville City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to move the city’s dispatch down the road to Headland.

Abbeville Police Chief Eric Blankenship says the move is a step in the right direction in keeping his officers safe, while providing better services for the citizens.

“It creates a dangerous situation, especially in life and death situations, where officers need backup,” Blankenship said.

The move towards a more centralized dispatch center for the county’s law enforcement is something Blankenship has been pushing for since taking the job earlier in January.

“It brings that unity there where you can trim down the fat with delayed responses. Everybody’s in the same room together. Everybody knows what’s going on,” Blankenship said.

Currently, the Abbeville Police Department and Henry County Sheriff’s office share costs and operate from a separate location than Headland’s police department. Headland funds its’ own stand alone communications center.

Blankenship says joining forces would help save Abbeville tens of thousands of dollars, which could be used for other needs, like safety equipment.

“Between ballistic vests, between patrol cars, between all of that, you know. None of that equipment is cheap,” said Blankenship.

Some county leaders agree it’s a good move. A centralized dispatch center has been a goal for Commission Chairman David Money for several years.

“If you consolidate it into one, no matter where it is, it’s going to be money-saving, it’s going to be quicker and better, more professional response. So it’s really been a no-brainer, but we have battled this for years as to where this location would be,” Money said.

Those decisions are already facing challenges. For example, Money says not all dispatchers will want to make the drive to Headland.

“It’s just really hard to train and retain good dispatchers. And that’s been a little bit of an issue with us. But I think now we can probably combine it all, raise the amount that the dispatchers make, make it a little more competitive,” Money said.

Abbeville and the Henry County Sheriff’s Office have shared costs for services in the past, but with Abbeville city council voting to move resources to Headland, the county could be left to fund on their own.

The County Commission must now decide in the coming weeks if they’ll be joining Abbeville in moving the county’s dispatch to Headland.

“We need to make a decision so that, number 1, it protects our citizens and closely behind it, saves money. We cant afford to spend $100,000-$125,000 a year needlessly just to maintain the dispatch point we have up here,” Money said.

The commission’s next commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 13th.

We reached out for reaction from the Sheriff, E-911 director, and others, but have not heard back at this time.

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