Police chiefs and firefighters gave the same message to the Broward County Commission Tuesday: fix Broward's fragmented 911 system.
They made the case that Broward’s assorted 911 systems should be consolidated into a regional system serving the county.
The commission agrees there's a problem, and appointed an implementation board to figure out how to consolidate Broward’s 911 services. The board concluded the best option was to raise property taxes by 2/10ths of a mil – or $48 per year for a $200,000 home – to pay for the solution.
But the commission refused to vote, by a 5-4 margin, on that proposed increase Tuesday.
"I can't give it my support,” Broward Mayor Kristin Jacobs said.
Ten years ago, voters said they would accept a small tax increase to consolidate the 911 system. Currently there are various call centers, including at the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and Plantation.
There is overwhelming support for a consolidated system – except in Coral Springs and Plantation. Both those cities have their own 911 call centers, and believe their residents are better served by their own system than by a countywide system.
The commission approved, by an 8-1 vote, sending the consolidation proposal back to Broward’s cities and getting all 31 of them to contribute money to a countywide system.
Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan said that won’t much accomplish much.
"It doesn't mean try to see which cities will participate and which won't. Until we fix that, we're putting people at risk,” he said.
People like Tina Ratcliff.
"I'm pleading with you, please, to fix this for the citizens. Thank you,” she told the commission.
A few weeks ago, Ratcliff and her husband, both retired cops, called 911 from their car in central Broward, as they were being followed by someone who smashed their vehicle with a golf club.
"Eastbound now, OK, from 109th Avenue and Sunset,” she told a dispatcher in a 911 call.
"OK, Ma'am, are you in the city of Sunrise?" the dispatcher asked.
"Gosh darn it, don't you know where I'm at? I'm giving you the addresses!" Ratcliff exclaimed.
She told the commission that was she was transferred three times during the incident, which lasted six or seven minutes.
"You're on a cell phone, you may not be calling anybody who can actually help you,” Ryan said. “The calls bounce around in the system and eventually they get there, but in the meantime minutes and seconds are lost."