Twenty bucks a year -- the projected average household property tax increase -- is a small price to pay for long-awaited regionalization of 911 calls in Broward.
Here’s the problem: Tuesday’s agreement between the county and cities has a big hole in it.
The name of that hole is Plantation.
So I guess we can celebrate with donuts or bagels, or anything else that has an empty space in the middle.
Because that’s what 911 consolidation without Plantation resembles. Coral Springs doesn’t want to take part for now either, but Coral Springs is almost alone in the county’s northwest corner.
Plantation, on the other hand, sits in the middle of Broward. It is surrounded by five cities, has the Florida Turnpike running through it and is bordered to the south by Interstate 595. Plantation’s reluctance to join the regional system could have serious consequences. The two most publicized fiascoes related to cellular 911 calls ping-ponging between emergency dispatchers in recent years both involved Plantation.
The problem occurs when mobile calls get routed to the wrong city because the closest cellular tower might not be in the same city as the caller. In the crazy-quilt geography of South Florida, it happens more often than you think.
In February, a couple was attacked in a road rage incident outside a Sunrise shopping center. Police response was delayed after the 911 call got bounced from Plantation to Sunrise to Plantation again.
The worst incident, in April 2008, ended with a woman driver being chased and shot to death by a stalker in the parking lot of the Plantation police department. Olidia Kerr Day, 45, spent three minutes and 24 seconds pleading for help while being bounced between Sunrise and Plantation 911 operators. Police weren’t dispatched until after the shots were fired.
Sunrise mayor Mike Ryan, to his credit, has led the charge for regionalization of 911 calls, realizing that lives are at stake and precious minutes count. He called Tuesday’s 5-4 commission vote “landmark for Broward.”
Plantation mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic, to her detriment, has balked at Plantation giving up its own emergency call center.
“You can be parochial about your parks and your garbage collection, but when it comes to public safety, we can’t keep digging these moats between cities,” Ryan told me Wednesday. “We all know that misdirected calls are happening every day.”
Bendekovic told me mistakes and delays could still happen in a regionalized system. “We’re choosing to wait and see,” she said, noting Plantation invested in its own call center after a regional system in the 1970s and 1980s failed.
In a three-page letter to county commissioners last week, Bendekovic spelled out 12 reasons behind Plantation’s decision, headed by concerns about Plantation’s volunteer fire department meshing with the new system.
Seems to me those things could be ironed out, and the mayor is being needlessly obstructionist.
“For Plantation, it’s all about the level of service and accomodating our volunteer firefighters,” Bendekovic wrote. Plantation “prides itself in servicing our community with professionalism, efficiency and utmost competency.”
You’d think after the confusion and tragedies spawned by the current system, Plantation would be the first to join.
Until the city changes its mind (soon, hopefully), keep your fingers crossed if you ever need to call 911 driving in central Broward.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun