Greene County Residents Raise Concerns over Moving 911 Operations

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John Gress outside Tuesday night's meeting John Gress outside Tuesday night's meeting
Greene County residents packed inside the meeting Greene County residents packed inside the meeting
Greene County Sheriff Steve Smith Greene County Sheriff Steve Smith

People in Greene County are raising concerns after the board of supervisors raised the question to move 911 operations out of the sheriff’s office.

On Tuesday, February 13, more than 100 people came out to weigh in on what they think should be done when it comes to emergency services.

Sheriff Steve Smith and many Greene County residents raised concerns about cost and safety for residents if the 911 services were to be moved. Others, though, like first responders, think the 911 services should be moved outside of the sheriff’s office.

People in Greene County are pushing back, saying 911 operations should stay under Sheriff Steve Smith's control.

Since December, the Emergency Communications Department has continued to run out of the sheriff’s office but the person in charge is reporting directly to the board of supervisors instead of Smith.

“We the people voted Mr. Smith into this position and I think he should be allowed to fulfill the duty of the 911 service,” says Ginny Dean, who lives in the county.

Many, like Dean, are not in favor of moving the call center out of the sheriff's office.

"The county cannot afford it and it is not necessary to create a separate command center,” says one woman who voiced her opinion at Tuesday night’s meeting.

However, first responders are wondering if cost truly matters.

“You want a cost analysis? Well, how much is my life or one of the others worth to you?" says Dustin Clay of the Stanardsville Volunteer Fire Department.

Outside the meeting, county resident John Gress protested the supervisors’ decision.

“We need someone who has hands-on experience as Sheriff Smith does and making the system very proactive and very efficient," says Gress.

Others, like Ruckersville Fire Chief Sean Ryan, say operations should be moved because calls to the sheriff’s office have been misdirected by operators.

“Law enforcement has been added to calls first, which we understand that they are on the road already,” says Ryan. “However, when you dispatch law enforcement to a basement fire without dispatching the fire department it leads to problems.”

Sheriff Steve Smith made it clear that the issue is not about control.

"You have the power to take 911 back if you want it, it’s yours, it’s your responsibility anyways, but you have to be able to take it back,” says Smith.

In the end, supervisors decided not to vote on the 911 issue at Tuesday’s meeting. Instead, they decided that they're going to start a dialogue between all agencies involved.

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