As the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office moves forward with construction of its own 911 center — a project expected to cost at least $850,000 — the agency still owes the city of Tulsa hundreds of thousands of dollars for the use of its 911 facility, records show.
In the past three years, the county has spent about $4.6 million to build and equip a new facility to train TCSO employees and operate 911 services.
Former Sheriff Stanley Glanz announced in June 2014 that the Sheriff’s Office would be constructing its own 911 center as part of a proposed training center. In anticipation of that move, Sheriff’s Office employees began answering county 911 calls at the city’s 911 center in October 2014, rather than paying the city to do it.
As part of that new arrangement, the Sheriff’s Office agreed to pay $186,533 a year for work space and equipment, according to Terry O’Malley, director of the city’s 911 center.
However since the new arrangement began, the Sheriff’s Office has not paid any of the $326,501 it has been billed, city records show. A $46,633 invoice for the first quarter of fiscal year 2017 is due Oct. 1.
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Roebuck said in an email Friday that the agency is negotiating with the city to resolve the issue.
“We are amicably working toward a financial agreement that we believe both TCSO and the city of Tulsa will be satisfied with,” Roebuck said.
City spokeswoman Kim MacLeod confirmed Friday that the city has received a proposal from the Sheriff’s Office that is under review.
Tulsa County commissioners voted last week to seek bids on the new 911 center. The bids will be opened in September, and the project is expected to be completed by the end of the year, county officials said.
O’Malley, who did not oppose the Sheriff’s Office 911 center when it was announced, said Thursday that the trend now is toward consolidating services.
“You don’t run your own (911 center),” she said. “That is my personal opinion.”
A big factor in the move toward consolidation is cost, O’Malley said.
“The wave of the future is you share technology,” she said. “So you are going to share your software, you are going to share your equipment because costs are so high.”
Washington state, for example, has consolidated all of its 911 services, and the state of Oklahoma is encouraging consolidation wherever possible to cut costs, improve standards and ensure consistent service throughout the state, O’Malley said.
The city’s 911 director also noted that the Sheriff’s Office 911 center will not be able to dispatch fire or EMSA calls, meaning those calls will have to be rerouted to the city’s 911 center.
“So you see how convoluted it gets? That’s why consolidation, at least by county, is better,” O’Malley said. “It is a recipe for disaster.”
City Manager Jim Twombly said another possible downside of the county having a separate 911 center is that it could slow down response times in some instances.
“If you are running a consolidated regional center and you have a (major) emergency in Catoosa, the more resources you can bring to bear the better off you are going to be,” Twombly said. “If you are in a stand-alone situation, you are going to be totally overwhelmed.”
Over the last year, Sheriff’s Office employees have handled an average of 6.5 law enforcement calls per hour, O’Malley said, compared with 82 law enforcement calls per hour dispatched to Tulsa Police. The Sheriff’s Office figures include 911 calls from Sperry and Catoosa, which the agency also handles.
O’Malley noted that the 6.5 calls per hour is an average and that certain days and times, such as weekend nights, are likely to be busier.
Sheriff’s Office figures, meanwhile, show its 911 staff handled handled 89,618 calls from last fiscal year, an average of 10.2 call per hour. The figure includes traffic stops.
The Sheriff’s Office has 12 full-time employees working at the city’s 911 center and two part-time employees.
The Sheriff’s Office received a $1.6 million loan from the Tulsa County Industrial Authority to start the project. The $1.6 million covered the $1.3 million cost of the land and $300,000 in engineering and preliminary infrastructure costs.
The overall construction estimated on the training center — including the 911 center — was initially $1.2 to $1.6 million but is now expected to be closer to $3.4 million, according to the Sheriff’s Office. That figure does not include the $1.6 million the Sheriff’s Office borrowed to get the project started.
Figures provided by the Tulsa County Fiscal Office show the Sheriff’s Office has spent $4.6 million on the training center and related 911 equipment in the past three years.
The shell of the training center is completed but the remainder of the project is on hold as the Sheriff’s Office determines whether to move forward with the project. The 911 center will occupy a portion of the training center.
Sheriff Vic Regalado said he is considering all options when it comes to the training center.
“I’m still looking at some possible options to include selling it, to include renting it out. … I’m going to explore several options,” Regalado said. “And we may retain it, finish it and move forward with the original plans. Whatever decision we go with will be, again, the most cost effective, and we’ll go from there.”
County commissioners in 2013 approved a resolution naming the training center after Glanz. The facility was to have been built on 33.8 acres of land at 6094 E. 66th Street North.
Officials broke ground on the Sheriff Stanley Glanz Law Enforcement Training Center in July 2014. Nine months later, in April 2015, then-TCSO Reserve Deputy Robert Bates fatally shot an unarmed black man in an undercover sting operation.
The incident sparked intense scrutiny of the agency and ultimately led to Glanz’s indictment on two misdemeanors he pleaded to earlier this year.
The refusal to perform official duty count accused Glanz of failing to provide a report on TCSO’s 2009 internal investigation into Bates after lawful requests from the media. A count of willful violation of the law accused the former sheriff of using county vehicles for official business while at the same time collecting a $600 monthly stipend for a personal vehicle.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Glanz received a one-year suspended sentence on each count. Bates, meanwhile, was convicted of second-degree manslaughter in the death of Eric Harris and is serving a four-year prison sentence.
Sheriff’s Office employees later voted overwhelmingly to remove Glanz’s name from the training center.