The Lockport Police Department’s deteriorating 911 system has been repaired, moving a controversy over police dispatching onto the back burner.
Police Chief Steven K. Abbott said Tuesday that all three terminals in the city’s dispatching center were restored to full functionality last week. He personally installed the new parts.
Abbott, who used to maintain the 911 communications center during his time as a detective, said he was contacted by someone who had some long-discontinued parts for the 1990s-vintage system.
“They were going to be thrown out, actually,” Abbott said. “They were getting rid of stuff. They asked me if I was interested and I said sure.”
Abbott has experience in scrounging for parts for the 911 system. He said he bought a power supply for the system on eBay about five years ago.
But these parts were free, on the condition that Abbott not disclose where they came from.
“It didn’t cost the city anything,” Abbott said. “Free parts and my knowledge – I guess no one can complain about that.”
Complaints about the dispatching system were a highlight of last year’s Lockport political campaign.
Then-Sheriff James R. Voutour warned last June that the Lockport 911 center was in danger of breaking down completely. At the time, only one of the three terminals functioned properly. Another worked partially. The third one did not work at all.
Lockport’s system receives only 911 calls from landline phones. All cellular calls to 911 are answered at the Sheriff’s Office, which employs civilian dispatchers.
They send radio calls to all police agencies in the county except Lockport and Niagara Falls, and all fire departments except Niagara Falls.
Voutour urged Lockport to assign police dispatching duties to the Sheriff’s Office.
But the city’s police union didn’t want to give up union work, and the matter became entangled in Mayor Michelle M. Roman’s re-election campaign. She resisted the transfer of dispatch, while her opponent, David R. Wohleben, supported it.
Eventually, the county offered Lockport a free radio channel for its police calls, if Roman and the police union made a deal. They haven’t.
Shortly before the election, Voutour issued a letter crediting Wohleben for the county’s offer and criticizing Roman, but Roman won the election.
“I have not discussed the issue with the mayor since the repairs,” union president Kevin Lucinski said Tuesday.
He said the repairs are “great for the citizens, great for the city and great for us.”
Roman did not respond to a request for comment.