Spokane City Council rejects joining regional emergency dispatch system

Spokane City Council rejects joining regional emergency dispatch system
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The Spokane City Council voted against joining the SREC. 

The Spokane City Council voted against joining the Spokane Regional Emergency Communications system at Monday night’s meeting.

The SREC will provide communication and dispatch services for several agencies around the county. If the City Council had voted to join, the SREC would have provided those services for the Spokane Fire Department and Spokane Police Department.

The City of Spokane will now operate a duplicate emergency communications system for dispatch and related services for the police and fire departments.

Mayor David Condon, SPD Chief Craig Meidl, SFD Chief Brian Schaeffer and Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley released a statement Monday night expressing their concern about the council’s decision.

“We are better togther, especially when we take into account the top priority of our citizens — safety,” said Condon. “More than two years ago, the Council and I agreed that regional integration of emergency services was a key priority, naming it specifically in our joint City Council-Administration Strategic Plan. This decision fails to recognize the cost savings, operational efficiences, and improved emergency response built into the new system.”

“Unfortunately, today’s conclusion could place the effectiveness of the region’s fire service at risk,” said Schaeffer. “Fracturing the Combined Communications System into two redundant and disparate systems places a significant barrier to ensuring the safety of the Spokane community’s firefighters and the public that we are sworn to serve. We are committed to pursuing future efforts to reduce call processing time, improve regional resource coordination, law/fire information collaboration, and taking steps to continually improve the system we have.”

CFO Cooley, in the release, estimated the city will now pay in excess of $1 million more in 2020 to maintain its own dispatch and communications services. Cooley added that the system will have no additional benefit for citizens.

Prior to Monday night’s decision, the City Council held a special meeting about the SREC. During that May 23 meeting, the council postponed their decision, saying SREC had not given them answers regarding what the partnership would mean for response times and dispatcher jobs.

On Tuesday, Councilwoman Karen Stratton told KXLY 920 that the council still felt they did not have enough information from the SREC to move forward.

“The city council did not feel we were getting the answers that we needed to make good decisions. We did not feel that the process to get to this point was transparent,” said Stratton. “And, the biggest issue was that no one could tell us if it would be cheaper and better for citizens.” ‘

Stratton also claimed the council was backed by district fire chiefs.

On May 15, the City of Spokane notified 10 fire department communication specialist that they will be laid off on July 1, which is the same day SREC will begin operations. Those specialist have been offered positions with the SREC.

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