More discussion about dispatch, but no decisions

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RBC Sheriff Anthony Mazzola and dispatcher Rhawnie McGruder provided additional information about the role of local dispatch to the commissioners during a work session on Tuesday, Oct. 13.—Lucas Turner Photo

RBC I The county continues “gathering data” to determine whether transferring dispatch services to the regional Colorado State Patrol call center in Craig would save the county money. The Board of County Commissioners invited representatives from the Town of Meeker and Meeker Volunteer Fire and Rescue to a work session Tuesday for further discussion. Sheriff Anthony Mazzola said his department was not invited, but he was in attendance.

County Attorney Todd Starr said, “to correct the record,” the sheriff’s department was provided with email notification on Oct. 8.

RBC Budget and Finance Director Janae Stanworth broke down her methodology for compiling cost per call for the dispatch center and came up with an average over three years. According to her calculations, the sheriff’s office receives 48% of calls, Meeker Police Department receives 34% of calls, and Meeker Volunteer Fire and Rescue receives 13% of calls. The other 5% is from other entities (Safehouse, school district, etc.)

The average cost per call, according to Stanworth, is $46.61.

Meeker Mayor Kent Borchard asked how much taking out the Meeker PD and fire department calls takes away from the overall cost of dispatch, and was told “not at all.”

Meeker Trustee Travis Day asked what other duties dispatchers fulfill that would need to be filled by additional staff. 

Sheriff Mazzola said he believes there has been a lack of communication and that “we need to work together as a team to figure this stuff out.”

According to Mazzola, dispatchers answer phone calls, help maintain records, work on warrants, and more. Dispatcher Rhawnie McGruder said the worksheet shared is based on the number of calls, not on the hours spent per call. A search and rescue call, for example, could be a 48-hour call. “There’s a lot of stuff that we do,” McGruder said, that can’t be quantified.

“You’re still going to have this cost, even if it’s only one call a day, you’re still going to have that employee sitting in that chair,” Stanworth said, regardless of admin calls. “Part of their job is admin calls, we could split it out by that, but at the end of the day it’s going to cost the same amount to run that center.”

Commissioner Rector acknowledged that any potential change to dispatch is at least 10-11 months down the road, but added, “If we can save half a million dollars, it would be shameful for us not to be asking those questions.”

No changes are anticipated for 2021. “There are a lot of unknowns there,” Rector said. 

Town of Meeker Trustee Wendy Gutierrez questioned the board, “The public has spoken. They asked you not to consider this as a way to cut the budget.” 

“We’re all in the same boat,” said Meeker Town Manager Lisa Cook. “Our budget is $2.9 million, we’re using $1 million of reserves that are no longer going to be replenished. We have just over $4 million in reserves right now. We have a lot of projects, and a water system we need to maintain. I agree we need to look at this. If we can save tons of money by going to CSP, then I guess that’s what should happen.”

“I would not give up public safety or service for this,” Rector said, reiterating the need to quantify the data before moving forward on an “unpopular topic.”

“We’re looking at all of our options,” said Commissioner Gary Moyer.

Colorado State Patrol, in their last meeting with the board, said they would need to hire at least five new full-time employees to handle the additional demands of RBC dispatch.

Concerns were shared by the commissioners and the county attorney about Rangely’s response, as taxpayers there pay toward county expenses.

The culmination of the work session, suggested by Mazzola, was to establish a subcommittee to review the numbers before moving forward, but members of that subcommittee were not assigned at the meeting. 

In other work sessions Tuesday, the board heard from Leif Joy about cutting costs on a software program from $17,000 to $5,000 a year by adopting a new program and “writing our own code,” and heard an update on the CR 73 bridge project.

In the regular meeting, the commissioners approved all the items on the agenda.