After decades of having its own dispatch center for police, fire and other emergency calls, Pleasant Grove city leaders are engaging in negotiations to join Central Dispatch, the special service district that provides dispatch services for 21 other entities.
According to Scott Darrington, city administrator, the decision for the probable move is a financial one and is not driven by the service provided by the city’s dispatchers. “They have done a good job,” he said.
Darrington said that for the last few months, there have been difficulties with staffing the dispatch center.
“We were finding that we were struggling to have enough dispatchers to cover the shifts,” he said. “We started looking at how we can enhance our dispatch services.”
To keep dispatch services in the city, additional money would need to be spent each year to hire more full-time employees and raise the salaries of current employees. This would cost the city at least an additional $90,000 each year, according to Darrington. He said that one reason it may be difficult to find enough employees is because the city currently pays its dispatchers two to three dollars less per hour than what other cities are paying.
However, to join Central Dispatch, there would be an annual savings of about $145,000. The cost for the city to be part of Central Dispatch would be $297,000 per year, according to Darrington.
“We looked at what other cities were paying for the service with Central Dispatch. When we got those numbers, my eyes opened. There are potential cost savings,” he said.
The city’s public safety building was recently built and includes about 600 square feet of space that is used for dispatch. When the building was being designed three years ago, the possibility of consolidating dispatch services was explored, according to Darrington.
At that time, the possible savings were fairly minimal, he said. Since then, another full-time employee has been hired, it has become more difficult to recruit new employees with the city’s current pay, and the city now receives $40,000 less funding per year from the state.
Building the dispatch space in the new building cost $170,000. Part of the negotiations with Central Dispatch is that they would lease the space for an emergency backup site for their dispatch services for five years at a total of $90,000.
“At that time the city will have the option of taking back the space and using it for future growth of our police department,” Darrington said.
There are currently five full-time and 11 part-time dispatch employees in Pleasant Grove. “As we discuss this, we are discussing individuals that will be impacted,” Darrington said. If the employees so choose, they can have jobs with Central Dispatch.
The move will not be official until the city council authorizes an agreement in a future City Council meeting, date yet to be determined, according to Darrington. But the intent will be to join Central Dispatch. “The numbers for the city are overwhelming,” he said.