Officials deploy a patchwork of 911 dispatch services in Franklin County, and the cost-effectiveness of that strategy has been called into question.
To gain a better understanding of the dispatch centers operating in the county, The Missourian obtained information on call volume, number of employees, agencies served and areas covered by each center.
There are four dispatch centers in Franklin County — the sheriff’s office and at the cities of Washington, Sullivan and Pacific.
Combining the four dispatch centers into one could save taxpayer money, according to State Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, who called the issue a “political football.”
But not all local officials are convinced consolidation is the best route.
Meanwhile, communication services around the county remain fragmented, and some taxpayer money may be going to waste.
The 911/communication budgets for the four entities total well over $2 million, and each center has its own director or supervisor. The county also contracts with a professional for technical support. More than 42 employees are budgeted to work for the four centers.
But Pacific Police Chief Matt Mansell said his department does not support consolidation. With the city of Pacific partially in St. Louis County, the police department is not interested in communication services “outside of our own,” Mansell said in an email to The Missourian. The Pacific Police Department’s communication center has been operating for years without any problems, Mansell added.
City of Washington Communication Director Lisa Hotsenpiller said she thinks consolidating the four centers should be looked at. She declined to share any more thoughts on consolidating the four centers.
Below is information on call volume, agencies served by the various centers, the areas they cover and the number of people they employ:
City of Washington Communication Center
Number of calls in 2013: 48,599 (911 calls and non-emergency), and 5,419 of those were 911 calls.
Agencies Served: Washington Police Department, Washington Area Ambulance District, Washington Fire Department (city and rural) and city parks and public works departments on weekends, holidays and after hours.
Area Covered: 63.5 square miles — All of the city limits, as well as some unincorporated areas of Franklin County including a section going toward Villa Ridge, almost to Highway T; a section down Highway 185; and an area south of the city limits toward Elmwood View Road, which is off Country Club Road.
Number of communication center employees: 11 budgeted.
Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Communication Center
Number of calls in 2013: 52,884 911 calls (not including other types of calls the center received).
Agencies Served: Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, six fire departments (Gerald-Rosebud, Sullivan, New Haven-Berger, Union, Beaufort-Leslie and Boles); four ambulance providers (Union, St. Clair, New Haven and Gerald); four police agencies (New Haven, Gerald, St. Clair and Union); and prosecuting attorney’s office fire investigator.
Area Covered: All of Franklin County for the sheriff’s office and portions of Gasconade, Crawford and Washington counties for fire and ambulance services.
Number of 911 dispatch employees: 21 budgeted.
City of Pacific Communication Center
Number of calls in 2013: The specific number of calls was unavailable, but the police department had 4,235 incident reports for 2013. However, the number of calls is “much higher” than the incident report numbers, the chief said.
Services dispatch for: Pacific Police Department (Pacific Fire Protection District and Meramec Ambulance District both contract their communication services with Central County Fire & Rescue).
Area Covered: City limits of Pacific. If calls from outside the city come in, they are transferred to the appropriate dispatching agency.
Number of communication center employees: Five full time and several part time.
City of Sullivan Communication Center
Number of calls in 2013: 11,648 “dispatched events.”
Services dispatch for: Sullivan Police Department, Missouri Baptist Hospital Ambulance, animal control, and after hours for city departments.
Area Covered: City limits of Sullivan (7.9 square miles), and outside the city for Missouri Baptist Sullivan Hospital Ambulance.
Number of communication center employees: Five budgeted.