TONOPAH — Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo expressed concerns about cuts to dispatch services in Tonopah and Beatty, which will only be operating during regular business hours starting May 1.
Round Mountain Town Manager Dan Sweeney also expressed concern during public comment at the Tuesday county commission meeting.
DeMeo said the dispatch is getting cut and six dispatchers laid off before the radio system is properly tested.
“We spent a lot of money, the town has, and we tried to be the solution instead of the problem out there and now it’s my understanding it could possibly be paged out of Pahrump. That’s a long way for us to get paging,” Sweeney said. “I understand you can’t tell the sheriff how to spend his money on dispatch but I think it’s your concern when it comes to fire and ambulance and out there we’re very remote.”
Sweeney said he loses radio contact already traveling north of Carvers and it’s hit or miss between Round Mountain and Tonopah.
“I heard that this is going to take effect May 1st and nobody’s been in contact with us out there or with (Emergency Services Director) Vance Payne that I’m aware of right now. I just got a call last night from the sheriff’s office how this is going to be and I’m told the pagers that we have will not be compatible with this also,” he said.
“It’s hard enough for me to get volunteers out there let alone they’re sitting at the store and they dialed 911 and no one showed up. That’s very disheartening for me and for our citizens,” Sweeney said.
During a break in the commissioner’s meeting, DeMeo said it wasn’t his idea. County commissioners cut six positions late last fall without letting him know, which was when he found out they were cutting dispatch up north, he said.
“I told them when they thought about doing this there should be a testing period at least a couple months. The closure starts in May and so far there has been nothing from the staff there about when they’re going to start testing the system, making sure it’s done. There’s going to be issues with it, I can tell you that right now,” the sheriff said.
DeMeo sai the blame falls squarely on commissioners.
“They cut the positions, not me. They should be the ones going to the communities and explain how public safety is still going to function and there should be a level of comfort with that, but none of the commissioners, even in the areas affected, want to do that. The sheriff’s office is getting the blame. The commissioners cut the budget, they cut the six positions,” DeMeo said.
“It’s going to be a couple months before I feel the system will have some ability, the system will be stable and we find out there’s no problems with it. When the dispatch closes during that time, there’s no one there,” the sheriff said.
He added Tonopah dispatch answered calls when the system was down in Pahrump.
The dispatch in Tonopah and Beatty won’t close completely, but the sheriff said when it goes dark, there will be no one there.
DeMeo said there’s also a learning curve because every repeater has a different feeder channel that dispatchers have to switch to talk to deputies. The system is not seamless, he said.
“The other issue I have is with the information overload, because very shortly everything is going to get dumped on Pahrump dispatch. There’s no testing of the system,” DeMeo said.
In summary, the sheriff said, “I’m not in a comfortable zone with this as it’s planned at this time.”
County Commissioner Donna Cox wanted to discuss Sweeney’s comments made under public comment. County Manager Pam Webster said, “I’ll be publishing a description of how that will all come together.”
Commissioner Dan Schinhofen said, “this isn’t really the best time to debate an item that isn’t agendized.”
Commissioner Lorinda Wichman told Cox she could call county staff to talk about it.