City to host town meeting about dispatch

By John Earp

The February 26th meeting of the Jal City Council encountered a standing-room-only crowd in the council chambers. For a meeting which usually has at most a handful of the public in attendance, this was definitely quite unusual, somewhat reminiscent of the large crowds which attended council meetings during the latter days of Bob Gallagher’s controversial tenure as city manager in 2017 and 2018.

Foremost in the minds of the people in attendance at this most recent meeting was the possibility of the City of Jal’s police, fire, and EMS dispatch services being taken over by the county. Several current dispatchers, along with several regular members of the public spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, with all expressing their strong desire to keep Jal’s dispatch service as it is.

After a lengthy executive session, in which the audience waited in the council chambers while the council, mayor, manager, etc., met behind closed doors to discuss several matters including the issue of Jal’s dispatch service, Mayor Stephen Aldridge announced that the city would host a town hall regarding the issue, where folks would have longer than the three-minute maximum allowed for public comment during a regular city council meeting.

Aldridge said, “It’s pretty clear that there’s a lot of more information that needs to be gathered by the council, by the community before any decision is made on this. We’d like to have a town meeting or public forum scheduled for March 11th somewhere, where you get more than three minutes to make a statement, and there is a community communication channel open, so that everybody gets a better understanding of this issue. It’s pretty complex, and there’s a lot of angles to it, that I know the council needs to better understand. We need to get LCCA down here. The dispatchers and the community, sitting in one place, probably the community center would be better.” Aldridge continued, “From the feeling I got from the council, we’re pretty independent people down here and we like our autonomy, and if we can take steps to maintain that, then we should. We need to look at what might be coming down the pike in the future as far as communication on the emergency channels go.”

On Tuesday the 5th, the meeting was scheduled for Monday March 11th at 5:30 pm in the council chambers.

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