LEMOORE — Local public safety officials are working on a plan that would put all of their dispatch services under one roof in Lemoore.
Police Chief Darrell Smith said he recently met with the heads of local law enforcement agencies and fire departments to assess their dispatching needs. Hanford, Corcoran and Kings County currently maintain their own dispatch centers.
Lemoore’s police and fire departments contract with the Hanford Police Department for dispatch services. The Avenal Police Department contracts with the county.
Although the project is still being designed, Lemoore’s five-year community investment program estimates it would cost about $4.1 million to build, plus $1.6 million to operate per year. The center would be built next to Lemoore’s police station on Fox Street. City officials are working to buy property for additional parking.
“Once we determine if we’re doing it, I’d like to start in the next year,” Smith said.
Smith said having all dispatch services in a single 6,500-square-foot building place would reduce “redundancy.” The three existing facilities currently have 44 allocated positions for dispatchers. A regional dispatch center may need as few as 28 dispatchers, Smith said.
Smith said he hopes to finalize a plan soon to remove uncertainty for dispatchers who could lose their jobs if the plan goes forward.
“We’re still defining exactly what the costs would be so we can make an intelligent decision,” Smith said.
Hanford Police Chief Parker Sever said the regional center would make it easier for local agencies to communicate in the event of a major catastrophe or even a vehicle pursuit that crosses from one jurisdiction to another.
“Those would be seamless,” Sever said.
Sever said there would also be some disadvantages to losing the Hanford dispatch center. The department’s 16 dispatch employees are responsible for other tasks including records services and some data entry.
Sever said he would also lose some control over daily operations by not having the center under his supervision. Any operational changes at a regional dispatch center would require approval by all agencies.
The Hanford Police Department is not yet fully committed to the project.
“We still haven’t seen the numbers yet,” Sever said.
Kings County Fire Chief Bill Lynch said the regional dispatch center would hopefully keep a high level of service while cutting costs. Lynch said county and city fire departments would see other benefits, especially when it comes to mutual aid and automatic aid agreements.
Currently, when one agency requests help from another, the call has to be relayed through two dispatch centers. Lynch said that can lead to a delay of up to 30 seconds before the assisting agency receives the call.
“With the single dispatch, there would be no delay,” Lynch said.
Smith said the facility would be designed to last for the next 50 years. It would have six operational dispatch consoles with room to expand to 10 consoles.
“We want to make sure that if we do this, we do it once,” Smith said.
If the regional facility turns out not to be feasible, Smith said, Lemoore would still move forward with a smaller dispatch center that would only handle Lemoore police and fire departments. The city secured $939,000 of state funding last year for the project.