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Sen. Jason Crowell wants to consolidate 911 call centers in Missouri

Sunday, February 8, 2009

County commissioners across the state want more funding for 911 centers.

But they aren't going to get it without making hard choices, according to Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau.

Crowell wants to see 911 centers across the state consolidated, a message he delivered to Cape Girardeau County Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones during a meeting in Jefferson City on Thursday and repeated later that day during a Senate hearing. The hearing was for a bill introduced by Sen. John Griesheimer, R-Washington, that would put a 25-cent cell phone tax on the ballot and allow the state to determine who gets the funding.

Voters have twice rejected taxing cell phones to pay for 911 services. Because cell phones are legally considered radio devices, they are not taxed, as land-line phones are, for 911 services. With more people dropping land lines in favor of cell-only service, funding for 911 has fallen.

More 911 calls

The number of calls into 911 centers has risen, requiring more dispatchers, according to county commissioners from around the state. Jones said as much to Crowell about Cape Girardeau's emergency services -- and the need for better funding.

"You're never, ever going to get the money until you consolidate," Crowell said. "I'll force you. I'll starve you down to it, if you're not going to do it of your own free will."

He went on to say the state has 114 counties but 174 individual 911 call centers, including two across the street from one another in Chillicothe, Mo. In a world where all fast-food orders for a chain restaurant go to one place, he said, and all North American service calls for Charter Communications go through Cape Girardeau, there has to be a way to streamline 911 services.

"I know how important it is," Crowell said. "But by gosh we can do it more efficiently, and that's what the taxpayers deserve and that's what the taxpayers demand."

He said the state should have five call centers: one for each quadrant of Missouri and one in the middle.

"You do it and I'll support it," Jones said, adding a warning that it was an area of "turf wars."

Cape Girardeau County has three 911 centers, one operated by Cape Girardeau, one by Jackson and one by the county. Scott County has five independent 911 centers.

Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter said he has been discussing consolidation with those in and around his county.

"I'm for [consolidation] as long as we can make it work and be efficient," he said. "You have to look at it from a business point of view."

At this point, he is spending $64,000 each year to close the gap between current 911 funding and the actual cost of providing the service.

Over the last month, he's laid off two part-time deputies and has not filled an open full-time deputy position.

Walter said he could see a regional center in any number of Southeast Missouri cities, such as Cape Girardeau, Sikeston or Benton.

But "once those 911 dispatchers leave, I'm still responsible for dispatching my own department," he said.

'Stretching it'

Mark Hasheider, assistant fire chief and emergency operations manager for Cape Girardeau, said the technology exists for consolidation, but without further research it appeared limiting the state to five 911 centers "would be stretching it."

Even after hearing Crowell suggested that a site similar to Cape Girardeau's new 911 center would be a perfect regional center, Hasheider questioned whether such centers could do what is necessary during an emergency.

"In my mind a regional hub could take a call and dispatch a firetruck that might be 100 miles away, but it takes a lot of technology to do that," he said. But he suggested that what could be lost is the ability for a distant dispatcher to know, in his example, that Snake Hill Road is also known as Cape Rock Drive.

"I'm not against the consolidation of 911 centers. In some counties that would be very beneficial, especially for counties that do not have 911 service as we know it today," he said.

Before anyone talks about where such centers would be, he said, there should be a clear understanding of dispatchers' responsibilities and whether call information would be forwarded or dispatched directly, as well as what would happen if one of the five regional centers was put out of commission for one reason or another.

He said Cape Girardeau's three centers "are working. It's not a broken system."

As Thursday's Senate hearing on Senate Bill 119 wound down, Griesheimer asked R.D. Porter, the state's 911 coordinator, to lead an effort among the counties to "come up with a number" for consolidating the centers.

Griesheimer said he wanted to see results before the Senate voted on the bill he introduced. He said he wanted the vote to happen before the Senate's mid-March spring break.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

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Stupid, Stupid idea Jason! These county offices could assuredly get "Auxillary" Sheriff's and Police men to do these jobs. Regardless "FUNDS" will have to be "PAID" to a "Consolidated" Company to handle this! Stop compromising the safety of your constituents!!!

-- Posted by Megalomania on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 7:36 AM

"You're never, ever going to get the money until you consolidate," Crowell said. "I'll force you. I'll starve you down to it, if you're not going to do it of your own free will."

Controlling? Dictator??? FORCE THEM????

The fact is JASON these consolidated call centers have a difficult time keeping people. Take NARS for instance. They are CONSTANTLY hiring new people. Why? NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE ADDING JOBS, but because they can't find good people. Why would we entrust a "LAW ENFORCEMENT type job to some renegade call center? Or worse yet, have someone from Pasjakastan answering the calls and be unble to communicate with them.

THIS step, is the first step in privatization of Law Enforcement. BAD BAD BAD move Jason! I think it's time to STARVE YOU OUT by not voting for you next time!

-- Posted by Megalomania on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 7:47 AM

"He went on to say the state has 114 counties but 174 individual 911 call centers, including two across the street from one another in Chillicothe, Mo. In a world where all fast-food orders for a chain restaurant go to one place, he said, and all North American service calls for Charter Communications go through Cape Girardeau, there has to be a way to streamline 911 services.

"I know how important it is," Crowell said. "But by gosh we can do it more efficiently, and that's what the taxpayers deserve and that's what the taxpayers demand."

Jason, you just hung yourself with this! McDonald's does this! Now...How often do they S.C.R.E.W. up orders??? Often enough that you DON'T want LIVES or LIFE THREATENING situations in their hands!!!

Are you in the Pocket to NARS??? The fact is, with Charter going bankrupt and Sprint closing stores, Charter is about to LAY OFF people! What! Are you trying to SAVE NARS? By getting them a big fat contract??

BASICALLY, you s.c.r.e.w.e.d the public when you went to this enhanced 911 system! You knew this was going to be the end result!!! Tax our cellphones?? Of course we're not going for that either, because that would also tax ALL radio communications!! You think you're a sly little gimp don't you?? You'll be getting an email from me!!!!!!!

-- Posted by Megalomania on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 7:56 AM

Consolidate Sen Crowell with G. W. Bush and recall him and send him home.

-- Posted by changedname on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 8:32 AM

I'm for consolidation whether it is the 911 system or school districts. This day and time everybody can not have there own thing going it cost to much. Look how high our public school tax has risen on our real estate taxes each year. Consolidation is the best effective cost saving way to do business.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 8:40 AM

Additional taxes & sub -standard services , exactly what we are getting from the utilities .

Ameren , higher rates more outages.

Mr Hasheider makes an important point "snake hill being also known as Cape rock" there are many similar cases where only the "locals" would know the particulars about dual names for the same thing.

Mr Crowell , terrible idea , I agree starve you out a no vote for next election...

-- Posted by rockman54 on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 8:40 AM

The quote from Crowell is very disturbing:

"I'll force you. I'll starve you down to it, if you're not going to do it of your own free will."

It's time to vote these kinds of legislators out. They are supposed to represent the people - they are not there to impose their judgment on the people. Crowell is not the only one. People, please keep track of these guys and what they are really doing "to the people".

-- Posted by The_Graphic_Goddess on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 9:26 AM

Consolidate the 911 centers and place the call centers in India, that's what all the big corporations and the U S Tax centers are located. Call for a tax form and see who answers your call. Some towel-head from India.

-- Posted by changedname on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 9:28 AM

Wow, how dare an elected official dare threaten the public safety of his constituents by saying you will threaten funding of 911 funding because you have a lame idea. You have not worked in Public Safety and have NO clue what the hell you are talking about. How many call centers have you called in which you felt the person did not have a clue?

The Missouri State Highway Patrol went down this road with the whole *55 form of 911 for highway travellers. It did not take them long to realize that sending all of the calls to a location that had no clue what local landmarks were, so they did not know who or what to send. Maybe you should check with the Highway Patrol and ask why they have a dispatch center for each of their troops. Why not cut their funding until they meet you guidelines? Maybe because not even the 13 or so Troop Communications Centers know for sure where everything is or who's jurisdiction it is. Don't believe me, call and give them a location on a highway (since that is their primary role) and tell them you need a fire truck and ambulance and ask them why they don't know. They relay it to the counties for a reason.

Anytime you try to consolidate 911 centers, they must try to keep track of the way each department likes to be dispatched and how they send trucks and cars to each call type. By doing that, you put too much trust in a CAD system to tell you what to send and where and the dispatcher loses the ability to manage responses, so when the system fails(tell me your computer never locked up), they don't know what each likes. Just check with those large call centers in big cities like St. Louis and Kansas City to see what they face in their already heavily consolidated centers. I agree that some could be combined, but 5 for the state is just plain STUPID.

So to make this pie in the sky work, under your belief, why not just do away with all local police and sheriff's departments, funnel all that money into the Highway Patrol and consolidate all fire depts under one DPS umbrella, and then there is the savings of one EMS department for the state. Then again, why do we have a House and Senate, lets consolidate that too, since they both do the same thing. And why have a Lt Governor when we have a Governor, that is just waste under your belief. Get a grip. How would all that technology work in a disaster, they were barely able to make enough work to keep SE Missouri working during the ice storm.

-- Posted by Luck_Has_IT on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 10:10 AM

Luck,

Great points. FYI...I've been emailing and debating this issue with Crowell all morning. He's answering them in the same headstrong tone.

jcrowell@ohkylaw.com

According to him "I'm" the only one who feels this way. I told him to read the forum!

-- Posted by Megalomania on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 10:52 AM

Classic. Another lying Republican who will claim during his campaign that Democrats raise taxes and Republicans don't. It's amaizing that some people still buy that garbage. Republicans will tax every single thing they can find, and then claim that because they don't raise INCOME taxes they aren't raising taxes. After 8 years of a Republican in the White House, we are being taxed to death. The sales tax rate in Cape is nearly 8% now, which is outlandish. You want to raise money? Cut out the pork and corrupt pet projects and raise your own money from the money you're already bringing in. And here's a news flash: the taxes in Cape County that keep going up and up and up are being raised by the Republicans that the people of this county keep insisting on electing.

-- Posted by heye1967 on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 12:05 PM

LOL! Stupid pills! LOL!

-- Posted by Megalomania on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 12:53 PM

I think consolidation makes good sense. I'm surely not in favor of paying higher taxes just so we can keep intact a disorganized decentralized system. It's time that the counties get their heads together and make this thing work. I'm tired of inefficient government -- the kind where the solution to every problem is "raise taxes, spend more."

I think that consolidating the centers would lead to more professional call centers and enhanced safety. Sure beats a country bumpkin dispatcher in the middle of nowhere.

-- Posted by ScaliaFan on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 4:22 PM

disorganized decentralized??? How?? Inefficient?? How?? That's the wording Jason is using, but no explaination as to "what" specifically is inefficient.

-- Posted by Megalomania on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 4:27 PM

Scalia,

Those "county bumpkin" dispatchers are saving lives every day. I'd govern your tongue if I were you.

-- Posted by Megalomania on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 4:47 PM

Having multiple locations handle the same thing is inefficient. The theory goes like this: when you have more dispatch centers, each one requires office space which requires an air conditioner and a break room and bathrooms. Each center then requires a bunch of phone and data lines and computer equipment. Now, for a smaller center, it seems at least plausible (it's worth additional study just to be sure), that some portion of that overhead includes fixed costs.

Just a few illustrative examples: say you have a data line that is only being used to 10% of its capacity in one call center, but it is the smallest "size" data line that you could purchase. Combine centers, use one data line, save money.

Another: say that the 911 operators need training on a new piece of software. The software company can either send a rep to 10 centers or to 1. Which is cheaper?

Another: software companies and other suppliers offer lower prices when purchased in bulk. Consider the cost of buying Microsoft Office at Wal Mart to use at home versus the cost of a site license for a large corporation. Per computer, the site license is going to be cheaper because of the bulk purchase. Centralized call centers have more bargaining leverage when they're going to buy software licenses for 50 workstations rather than 5 licenses apiece for 10 call centers.

I'm no economist, nor am I a dispatcher -- and perhaps there are some parts of my example that aren't absolutely accurate (maybe there is already a statewide contract for software, etc.). My point here is that it seems absurd to argue that there are no efficiency gains in centralizing dispatch operations.

If there were no efficiency gains in centralization, why do companies and organizations of all sorts use large call centers (or large warehouses for that matter)? It just makes sense to do the same thing in one place.

This whole idea is worthy of further debate -- but I just don't understand why anyone would argue that it is more cost efficient to have a bunch of small dispatch centers rather than larger ones. If you think we need to pay higher taxes so we can protect the jobs of dispatchers in county dispatch centers, just say so. Don't argue that it will be more efficient when it seems, in all likelihood, that it just isn't true.

It's good to see people debating matters of public concern -- after all, these are our tax dollars and our 911 centers.

I'm thankful that Jason Crowell is looking out for our dollars and trying to find ways to make state government more efficient. I think it's great that he is standing up to the county commissioners who always have their arms outstretched for more money from the state. Jason, JUST SAY NO! He can expect my vote -- and maybe even a campaign contribution -- during his next campaign.

-- Posted by ScaliaFan on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 4:54 PM

I'm sure there are some professional dispatchers out there somewhere in , but the last time I called a rural 911 center, the country bumpkin dispatcher misdirected the EMTs THREE TIMES, even with an exact (to the 1/10th of a mile) mile marker location. That delay caused a man to lose his foot to an amputation.

Needless to say, that experience has made me in favor of more professional dispatchers and modernized dispatch centers.

-- Posted by ScaliaFan on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 5:00 PM

In Kentucky we all pay a $1.00 fee on all phone bills per month. This includes both land lines and cell phones. I have never minded paying this twelve dollars per year. We have a 911 center which has city police, ambulance and fire department dispatchers working together. From this center one full time fire department, 12 volunteer fire departments, 3 police departments two Sheriff departments and one ambulance service are dispatched. When the State Police are needed, they have a direct line to their post headquarters. When the 911 system went into service about 15 years age, I was semi-retired and took a job with the center part-time (weekends). In the very beginning we had a few minor problems but they were promptly ironed out. If cell phones can not have a monthly fee placed on them for 911 in Missouri, I believe a state law needs to be changed. Our Enhanced 911 can pinpoint a cell phone callers location within 1/4 mile. Our center covers two counties.

-- Posted by mo_ky_fellow on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 5:07 PM

Scalia,

Then I question who the 911 dispatchers are for this area? Are the LEO affiliates from actual departments? Or Call Center .... NARsish, types?? (nothing against those folks however)

-- Posted by Megalomania on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 5:38 PM

I'm not sure I understand your question. If you are asking who the dispatchers are in the situation I described -- I don't know. It wasn't in an area I was terribly familiar with. If you're asking about the dispatchers in the Cape area, I'm not sure about that, either. I've never met any of them (that I know of) personally, so I don't know their backgrounds.

I don't think this debate is about the "type" of people hired for dispatching jobs. The qualifications for dispatchers, I would hope, would remain as high as ever. I just think it's worth considering putting a whole bunch of those same qualified people in one place. They should be paid a wage commensurate with their experience and qualifications. We just need to cut the overhead costs to a reasonable degree. I don't think anyone (not even Senator Crowell) is advocating a national call center for 911 -- but let's at least make them reasonably centralized and save on some costs.

I think the opportunities for professionalism and training would be enhanced by regional call centers. Further, it would give "poorer" rural counties the benefit of services paid for (in part) by tax dollars from larger counties.

I still stand with Senator Jason Crowell -- if the counties won't get together on their own initiative and make their services more efficient, the state should make them "starve" until they have to. Such an approach will put a stop to "turf wars", stalling, and other disputes between counties and change the focus to enhancing public safety and keeping our costs in line at the same time.

Lets assume, arguendo, that we're talking about the same "LEO affiliated" dispatchers working for some governmental entity. Do you still contend that there would be nothing to gain by creating "shared" regional call centers?

-- Posted by ScaliaFan on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 7:36 PM

Scalia,

The conversation was about "efficiency" it was at that moment you talked about Country Bumpkin dispatchers. I do feel that a degree of personalization would be lost by this consolidation. As the fire chief stated, a "call center" dispathcher will not know the "local" names of streets or highways.

-- Posted by Megalomania on Sun, Feb 8, 2009, at 8:01 PM

S/E Missouri'a 911 centers are already partially consolidated...

Incoming calls are directed to the nearest 911 center -and then that center calls the nearest local law enforcement, who then contacts emergency services...

From the initial call received time until the first car pulls out to help is always more than 5 minutes, usually more like ten.

Then, the center didn't get good directions, since they're not from the area, so the officers have trouble finding the incident..

-- Posted by OlderEagle1 on Mon, Feb 9, 2009, at 1:47 AM

I have been involved with EMS/ Abulance services for 15 yrs. in RURAL mo., I have dealt with the disp. issues and the availability or lack of. I have been in ambulance management for 10yrs.

As to the proposal of regional 911 centers, this proposal is not ALL bad,BUT, I know first hand that stretching the regions to 5 in the state is TOO much.

I live in the rural area where the caller says"Go past the old Smith home and I live next to Bob Brown". These direction are not uncommon for us. Also, these rural people take offense to people asking there life history. The need for consolidated 911 is a good idea, but on a much smaller area.

I have always held a position of regional disp. as to 4-6 connecting counties, with the op center "Centrally located" not 150- 200 Mi. away. I live within the SE region and Cape would be at the opposite side of the region from me.

If this plan is ever to work ALL invovled parties need to be in the conversation not just the bigger Urban areas.

-- Posted by jim_emtp on Thu, Feb 12, 2009, at 11:33 AM

I have been involved in fire and EMS for a number of years now and I would like to touch on a couple of things this has brought up. First to Older Eagle. I'm not quite sure where you recieved your information but I can tell you in Cape Girardeau Co. that the delay of 5 to 10 minutes is not so. If you live in the city limits of Cape oor Jackson and you call 911 it will go to those PSAP's ( Public safety answering points), they will then ask a series of questions to determine what service you need. The same goes for the county. If you need medical they will then transfer the call to the PSAP at the ambulance service while at the same time dispatching a fire truck or in the county if you live in a district that does medical first reponders that district will be dispatched. All of this taking approxiametly a minute and a half. On the same hand if you need law enforcement they will be dispatching them as well.

I agree with the consolidated dispatch centers all though I do not feel we only need 5 hubs. I have to agree with jim_emtp where it needs to be 5 or 6 counties together centrally located. Did you know we have 9 MSHP troops that dispatch thier cars and currently the Jefferson City troop has 57 cars on duty. In the Jefferson City troop area that encompasses 12 counties there is well over 500 firefighters and EMS personnel as well as over 1000 police, deputies, conservations officers. Now imagine all the 911 calls that would be processed at this center alone for all those counties. It would end up like Kansas City when you call 911 and get a recording that tells you that your emergency is extremely important, please stay for the next operator. Is that what we want?

Again as I stated I am for consiladation, but on a 5-6 county region only. I hope this opened some eyes.

-- Posted by TravisSheppard on Fri, Feb 20, 2009, at 11:26 AM


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