Dispatch considers move | SteamboatToday.com

Dispatch considers move

County examines options for public safety offices

Melinda Dudley

Sharon Clever, a supervisor and 911 coordinator for Routt County Communications, works at her desk Tuesday morning in the communications office located in the basement of the Routt County Sheriff's Office.

— A preliminary proposal to move Routt County Communications into the new justice center has been dismissed, at least temporarily, in favor of exploring a more cost-effective, long-term solution.

The proposal went back to the drawing board Monday after a discussion between the Routt County Board of Commissioners and Communications Director Dave Hill. Renovating available space at the new justice center to accommodate the county’s emergency dispatch center would cost about $1 million – an untenable cost given Routt County’s budget situation.

“We want the public safety team to really talk about public safety needs and look at the best way to proceed for the long term,” Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. “Then we can look at how we can finance that.”

Routt County Communications has been in the basement of the Routt County Sheriff’s Office for the past 18 years, and technology and equipment upgrades mean the department slowly is outgrowing its existing space, Hill said. The department also has experienced infrastructure problems in the facility, including broken sewer lines and gas leaks, he said.

While the Routt County Justice Center is only a year old, it was not built to the standards required for emergency dispatch centers. Since Sept. 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina, facilities with essential emergency functions must be built to higher earthquake, wind and snow-loading standards, Hill said.

“The justice center was determined to be a non-essential function, since in an emergency they can shut down operations for a period of time,” Hill said.

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Stahoviak suggested exploring long-term options for Routt County Communications, including securing grants and other sources of funding.

Because of declining sales tax revenues and the rising costs of fuel and other commodities, Routt County expects to be about $1.9 million more than budget across the board this year. The county is in the midst of attempting to mitigate a $4 million projected shortfall for 2009. The commissioners are working on next year’s budget, Stahoviak said.

The county will look at interim and long-term space solutions in the coming months. Hill said he is optimistic that Routt County will identify a feasible facility for the communications department, to tide them over for the next several years until a long-term solution can be found.

“They’re in a bind, because they need to balance the fiscal reality with the needs of any particular department,” Hill said. “They’re trying to do the best they can.”

In addition to expanding the department’s current home at the Routt County Sheriff’s Office, another possible solution is a public safety facility encompassing multiple county departments, including Routt County Emergency Management and the coroner’s office, Hill said.

“With politics and the bureaucracy and the reality of finding money, that could take several years,” he said.

– To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203 or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com