Debate continues over merging Spokane 911 dispatchers into regional emergency response

Debate continues over merging Spokane 911 dispatchers into regional emergency response

Following Spokane City Council’s unanimous veto override from present council members on Monday night, a move that would have seemingly put a stop to Spokane Mayor David Condon’s efforts to integrate the city’s 9-1-1 dispatchers into a regional emergency response center, his office says they intend to keep working with partners to make it a reality.

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist told KXLY the veto was on a legislative side issue and wouldn’t impact his actions and thus he intends to proceed as usual.

In a letter sent to council members last week, Condon said combining the city’s dispatchers into the regional system, would eventually save the city the $4.2 million it spends on dispatching services right now. He also noted that it would make emergency response faster.

As to what may ultimately happen if the city ultimately joins, is unknown just yet, its early in the process, but the city council has made it clear with the information they have, they are not on board. Members say they have not been given any solid information as to whether those benefits would actually occur.

“(Mayor Condon’s) proposition is a faith based proposition, someone told him that would happen, there is not financial analysis, no analysis of why this would be any faster,” said Council Member Breean Beggs. “Since June we have sent letters, and sent several requests, saying show us how its going to work, how its going to make folks safer, and we just haven’t gotten it.”

He says why potentially jeopardize Spokane’s public safety with changing who the boss is.

“Our dispatchers are great, there is nothing wrong with the system we have, so why change the employer if nothing is wrong,” he said.

He said if anything right now, better options would be spending money on updated software for the dispatchers.

“(The veto override) puts a temporary stop on integration until city council’s minds are changed, we aren’t saying they will be or won’t be, we just need the data,” said Beggs.

The local fire union president is also concerned about the proposal, saying they’ve been kept out of the loop.

“Those of us in the business, the police officers on the street, the firefighters, the people that have been dispatching us for years haven’t been involved at all,” said Randy Marler, President of Spokane Firefighters Union Local 29.

He shares the city council’s concerns that they haven’t been given the facts that support the proposal.

“For something so big, so critical to life safety to ourselves and the public, it seems like the conversation would start with some hard facts,” he said.

The Mayor’s office told KXLY, some of those answers don’t exist right now, and that is what they are working to gather and make clear currently.

What they do know, if the city doesn’t join the regional center, dispatchers will likely be laid off. With 13 fire districts already committing to joining the regional center, Spokane’s call volume would go down.

If the city of Spokane maintains its participation in the regional center’s dialogue, it says they will be able to be apart of the bargaining process and be able to help manage the job transition process.

Currently the city of Spokane’s dispatch follows this layout. County employed call receivers received all 9-1-1 calls, they then route it to the appropriate dispatchers depending on need and location. If you are in the city and calling with a safety concern, they will route you to city police dispatchers, county calls will go to county sheriff’s and valley police dispatchers, fire and medical calls are all sent to the same dispatchers, as the fire dispatchers have already been integrated county-wide.

Another concern highlighted by City Council Member Mike Fagan, is that the money that could be used to organize the regional center would come from the voter passed 9-1-1 tax. Fagan says that tax wasn’t specifically designated for such an emergency response center.

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