Concern over 911 call center cuts proposal

Posted at 9:49 PM, May 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-06 23:35:32-04

A budget proposal for the City of Tulsa would cut more than a dozen vacant 911 dispatcher positions– concerning for council member Karen Gilbert who said more call center employees are needed to reduce delays.

"When we are talking about public safety, citizens will say 'Well, don't worry about calling 911 because no one's there to answer the phone'", Gilbert said regarding constituent  feedback on 911 call delays.

In peak times, a recorded message is played urging callers to stay on the line. That's what Elvia Gist said happened to her last month when an unrly patron came into her north Tulsa convenience store Zenzel Plaza. She and her husband said they were essentially put on hold by 911– eventually shooting and injuring the man they say was threatening them.

"All of this would've been avoided if 911 would have answered," Gist said.

"That's very frustrating. We can't have that happen," Gilbert said.

She said she's concerned about the current budget proposal to cut 15 vacant 911 call center positions. it comes just weeks after voters approved a public safety tax, which will fund additional police officers, firefighters and 16 911 Call Center employees.

Gilbert said she is not giving up and is joining other leaders to look for resources to add more dispatchers before a new budget is approved this summer.

"Public safety is one of those core services that we have to provide," Gilbert said.