911 call center to remain in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

911 call center to remain in Aspen

Law enforcement officials briefly considered disbanding the local 911 dispatch center and routing calls through Grand Junction last week before voting to keep it in the Aspen area for the next 10 years.

That's according to Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, who said the idea to regionalize police, fire and emergency medical calls came about because the county is slated to spend $1.8 million to relocate the current 911 dispatch center and wanted to make sure it was spending the money prudently.

"We briefly looked at the possibility of regionalization … and if that might be a better solution," DiSalvo said. "We voted to keep the communication center here and invest the money in our employees."

The vote he's talking about took place among the members of the Pitkin County Communication Board, which met Dec. 14 with representatives of the Grand Junction Regional Dispatch Center to see if it could accommodate Pitkin County's needs, he said. That likely wouldn't be possible for a couple years, DiSalvo said.

So members of the board met again Friday and voted 4-1 to move the dispatch center to the North 40 Fire Station at the Aspen Business Center for the next 10 years, he said. Members of the board include DiSalvo, Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor, Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson, Basalt Police Chief Greg Knott and Snowmass Village Police Chief Brian Olson.

DiSalvo declined to say who voted against the proposal to keep the dispatch center in Aspen.

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The discussion came up because the dispatch center, located in the same building as the Pitkin County Jail, will have to move anyway because construction of a new county building next door will be too noisy and disruptive, DiSalvo said. Utility lines, including those used for 911 calls, will have to be rerouted during that project.

In addition, the center has historically had trouble attracting and keeping employees, he said. For example, Director Bruce Romero resigned about a month ago for another job, DiSalvo said.

Finally, the future of dispatch centers is likely regionalization. In the future, Colorado will probably have three total dispatch centers for the state, DiSalvo said.

However, the time is not yet right, he said.

Still, that didn't stop word from getting out to current employees.

"I have had some hacked off people," DiSalvo admitted. "But it was a consideration for all of five days."

He said he met with the current 15 to 18 dispatchers last week and told them nothing would happen immediately and that it was "not even close to reality."

Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said it was right to question the situation from a management and service-provider point of view. However, it was clear relatively quickly that the county's radio infrastructure wasn't yet up to par to be able to participate in a regional system.

He also said that about half of the $1.8 million for the new dispatch center will go toward new equipment that would be necessary regardless of where the center is located.

The lease with the Aspen Fire Department for the North 40 has not yet been signed, Peacock said. It will likely cost the county about $40,000 a year for the space, which must be renovated a bit first, he said.

The dispatch center will not move back to the downtown space, DiSalvo said, and will remain at the North 40. The space at the jail will be used as a construction office during the county building project then will be given back to the Sheriff's Office, he said.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

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