KEYSER - The rumored demise of the dispatch operations at the Keyser Police Department sparked a heated exchange Wednesday evening during the Keyser City Council meeting.

By Liz Beavers
lbeavers@newstribune.info
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - The rumored demise of the dispatch operations at the Keyser Police Department sparked a heated exchange Wednesday evening during the Keyser City Council  meeting.
The discussion began with mayor-elect Damon Tillman asked the present council to consider hiring a communications officer as soon as possible so the new employee would be able to attend an upcoming required training in July.
With the retirement of communications officer Tom Roy effective June 30, the city police department will be left with only two officers in dispatch, he said. If a new officer is not hired in time to attend the July training, the next available training is apparently not until later in the fall.
Tillman said he feels the dispatch operation is critical to the department.
“Communication is an officer’s first line of defense,” he said.
City administrator Randy Amtower told Tillman, however, that the city had been reluctant to hire anyone because of the rumors that had been circulating about certain city candidates’ plans to get rid of the local dispatch and moving operations to the Mineral County 911 Center.
“There was an indication they wanted to get rid of dispatch, and we didn’t want to hire somebody,” he said.
“That didn’t come from me,” Tillman said.
When he began to further explain his viewpoint on the topic, however, resident Ralph Broadwater interrupted, saying, “That was me! I said it and I’ve BEEN saying it!”
Claiming that the city could save $300,000 a year be getting rid of dispatch, Broadwater said that money could be better used elsewhere.
He also complained about what he said was lag time when making a 911 call within the city.
“When you call 911, and they call the City of Keyser, that takes valuable time,” he said.
At one point during his comments, council member Karol Ashenfelter smiled, and Broadwater pointed at her, saying, “Karol, you can sit there with a smirk on your face, but it’s true!”
Tillman then asked Broadwater if he could continue with what he’d been trying to say, and Broadwater apologized.
“This decision (about dispatch) will be made by me, and the council, and the police department, and we will come to a mutual decision,” Tillman said.
“This he said/she said stuff has created a lot of issues … and it really needs to stop.”
Although Amtower explained that the police department normally does its own hiring, council member Terry Liller made a motion to ask chief Karen Shoemaker to start the hiring process for a communications officer.
Shoemaker will only be in the chief’s position for another two weeks, however, as she also submitted her letter of retirement Wednesday, to become effective June 30.