Ambrose, kim

Kim Ambrose says local dispatchers provide a sense of comfort to seniors that might not be available from the county system.

On the agenda at tonight’s meeting of the Fair Haven Council: discussion of a proposal to hand off to Monmouth County Sheriff’s office dispatchers responsibility for fielding all emergency calls originating from the borough.

Actually, it’s not literally on the agenda, and wasn’t expected to come up for a vote until next month. But part-time dispatcher and First Aid Squad volunteer Kim Ambrose of Harrison Avenue has been leading a campaign to put a spotlight on the issue. She’s planning to be there tonight, with supporters. A representative of the local PBA is expected to attend also.

Ambrose is careful to note that she doesn’t speak for the police department or the PBA. But she’s been going door-to-door calling attention to the plan.

At present, all 911 calls originating in Fair Haven go through county dispatch. The proposal would have even non-911 calls to the police department follow the same path.

Mayor Mike Halfacre is pushing the plan as a money-saver. According to an Asbury Park Press story that ran over the weekend:

In 2008 the borough spent about $175,000 for dispatching, which
includes wages, benefits and pension for five full-time dispatchers and
one part-time, Halfacre said. The Monmouth County proposal for 24-hour,
seven-day-a-week, coverage would cost roughly $60,000, based on past
call volumes, he said, although some aspects of pricing, such as what
counts as a call, are still being worked out.

Monmouth County
charges $4.32 per call and a flat fee. Another advantage mentioned in a
presentation by Undersheriff Shaun Golden is that the borough won’t
have to bear the cost of upgrading equipment.

There will be a
video link and a phone line which connects to the county communications
center. If an officer is needed, they would be dispatched, as they are
now, he said.

“It will be the same thing; the only thing that will change is the location of who answers the phone,” Halfacre said.

Ambrose, though, sees the issue in terms of small-town values, and worries that the change could result in some unnecessary distress for senior citizens.

“I really think it is going to affect them more than anyone,” she says. “Seniors are more comfortable knowing they’re calling a local number. I think they would be a little more apprehensive about calling someone about something minor that could turn into something major. There’s a lot that local dispatchers do for the community.”

More broadly, she sees the proposed change as a loss of small-town intimacy. “I just feel like we’re going to wake up one day and everything we thought was Fair Haven will be gone,” says Ambrose, a wife and mother who’s lived in the borough for 18 years.

Lest anyone think her view is rooted in protecting her job, Ambrose says that she only works every few weeks, as needed, to fill in vacancies in staffing, sometimes for as little as an hour and a half.

Her campaign, though, appears to have spurred full-time discussion. A posting about the proposal by Halfacre on his blog has attracted in excess of 100 comments and questions on the plan, many of them referring to flyers Ambrose distributed.

Wrote one anonymous poster, addressing Halfacre:

Sounds like you are upset about the flyer. If all it did was get you to
post your intentions and make more people aware of what is going on,
then I guess it served a purpose.

The meeting starts at 7p in the council chambers at borough hall. Here’s the agenda: Download Jan-26-2009-regularmeetingagenda

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