By Josh Mitchell
Missourian Staff Writer
Consolidation of dispatch centers in the county is not going to happen unless it is forced because each area wants its own “little kingdom,” Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said.
However, Griesheimer said, “I would like to see some consolidation,” adding that he sees “duplication” with multiple communication centers.
There are four dispatch centers in the county, and consolidating them could save money and create efficiencies, according to State Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair.
For instance, with the current situation, each center has its own director, and the county also contracts with a provider for technical support. The combined salaries of the four directors and the contract employee exceeds $250,000 a year. The budgets for the four centers total well over $2 million.
But Griesheimer said he does not think it would be feasible to consolidate the four centers into one. He said there could possibly be some consolidation so there are only two centers.
Currently, the four centers are at the county sheriff’s office and in the cities of Washington, Sullivan and Pacific.
Griesheimer said it may be more feasible for Sullivan to consolidate with Crawford County and other areas to the south and west, but he said Pacific could possibly consolidate with the county.
However, he said the individual entities are comfortable doing their own dispatching, and they do not seem willing to consolidate.
In fact, Griesheimer said the only way consolidation will occur is if it is mandated by the Legislature. It is not going to happen voluntarily, he added.
He said he does not know if consolidation will ever occur here, adding that it is frustrating that officials can’t sit down and figure it out.
Meanwhile, Hinson, a paramedic, said a bill that would allow the public to vote on whether to impose a monthly cellphone fee on themselves to bolster 911 services is not going to move in the Legislature until counties around the state start getting serious about consolidation.
Griesheimer said he sponsored a similar bill in 2008 when he was in the state Senate, and it did not go anywhere then.
It would have allowed people to vote on a cellphone fee of up to 25 cents per month to improve 911 services. But it did not pass after one senator said he would not allow it to go through without mandatory consolidation. That senator is no longer there, Griesheimer added.
The fee would have raised money to bolster 911 services around the state, he said. He proposed the bill after a maintenance worker got hurt in Washington and called 911 and the call went to St. Louis.
Since the tax did not pass, Franklin County has improved its 911 system on its own, and now 911 calls go to the nearest tower, he said.