By Ellen Eldridge
and Ann Marie Quill

ChatComm faces renewed complaints about its emergency dispatch service in Dunwoody. Meanwhile, the agency is delaying its start of operations in Brookhaven by a month.

The Chattachoochee River 911 Authority, known as ChatComm, was at one point set to take over dispatching Brookhaven police on Aug. 11. But the start date has been pushed back to Sept. 2, Brookhaven City Manager Marie Garrett told city council members on Aug. 12. She said the delay was imposed so ChatComm could work out issues with cellphone carriers.

“You don’t have to explain to us why we’re not going live sooner because I totally defer to the police and to them and to you,” Mayor J. Max Davis said. “If we’re not ready, no problem starting after Labor Day.”

Brookhaven City Council voted in March to hire ChatComm, which is owned by the cities of Sandy Springs and Johns Creek, after Garrett and Police Chief Gary Yandura said the move from DeKalb County dispatchers would improve police response times and improve safety for police officers.

In Dunwoody, police say their use of ChatComm has improved police response times over the times posted when DeKalb County dispatchers handled the city’s police calls.

But some Dunwoody city residents have argued for more than two years that ChatComm does not use the best system of dispatching ambulances and fire trucks. DeKalb dispatchers still handle ambulance and fire calls in Dunwoody, and some residents want ChatComm to implement a Computer Aided Dispatch program to handle those calls. They say the CAD-to-CAD program would be quicker than the current call-transfer system.

But efforts to implement a workable CAD-to-CAD system have not been successful.

In a recent discussion, Dunwoody City Councilman Jim Riticher said problems over the CAD-to-CAD system had convinced him to oppose renewing the city’s agreement with ChatComm.

“I’m very much against renewing the contract,” Riticher said.

Dunwoody City Councilman Terry Nall asked city staff members if city officials had given ChatComm formal notice on whether they planned to renew the contract or not. City officials said that without formal notice to end the contract, the contract would continue in place after the renewal date. Dunwoody can cancel its contract with ChatComm by giving six months notice.

Several Dunwoody council members questioned whether the city should sever ties with ChatComm.

Councilman Doug Thompson said he didn’t like the idea of “drawing a line in the sand” with ChatComm. Mayor Mike Davis agreed, saying he wouldn’t want the city’s “bluff called.”

The cost for renewing as a subscriber to the ChatComm service at a small and steady rate increase made the most financial sense for Councilman Denis Shortal. “I like long-term contracts, if they’re good,” Shortal said.

The lack of an alternative dispatch service, other than returning to DeKalb County dispatch, seems to have convinced council members to continue with ChatComm for now.

“There’s nowhere else to go,” Davis said. “It’s a good deal. We’ve got to take it.”

By the end of the discussion, Riticher had agreed he didn’t want to leave ChatComm, but he emphasized that he wants a solution to the CAD- to-CAD problems.

“I want them to perform on what they promised,” he said.