Solano County

County discusses consolidated dispatch

By From page A4 | April 16, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Some other counties have consolidated their dispatch centers for fire and medical services and Solano County is exploring whether it should do so as well.

Solano County emergency officials have mentioned the idea of having one dispatch center at various times over the years. Recent discussions about possibly consolidating rural fire districts has brought it to the forefront again.

“One of the issues that needs to be addressed for consolidation is a common dispatch center,” Local Agency Formation Commission Interim Executive Officer Elliot Mulberg said.

The Solano County Local Agency Formation Commission heard Monday how Sacramento County fire agencies formed a joint powers authority to establish a countywide dispatch center in that county for fire and emergency services. The commission met in the Solano County Board of Supervisors chamber.

Teresa Murray addressed the commission. She is chief executive director of the Sacramento Fire/EMS Communications Center.

The Sacramento center serves eight fire departments and districts, from the Sacramento Fire Department to Folsom Fire Department to the Cosumnes Community Services District. Murray called the organization a “borderless, seamless, 1,000-square-mile” joint powers authority.

Each member of the agency pays an annual amount based on how many calls each one has. The annual budget is $8.1 million. Each member retains its own identity, Murray said.

A con to forming such a joint powers authority is most agencies politically want to maintain a silo for control, Murray said. Whatever Solano County does, it should never forget the greater good, she said.

The Sacramento center has more agencies interested in joining, including law enforcement agencies, Murray said. If law enforcement agencies do join, she will recommend that their dispatch be separate, either in a separate room or on a separate floor, she said.

“I do completely understand law is different than fire,” Murray said.

Solano County has six fire districts and seven city fire departments. The rural districts have dispatching done by Solano County, expect for the East Vallejo district, which has dispatching done by Vallejo. Fairfield, Suisun City, Vacaville, Benicia and Vallejo have their own dispatch centers, a Local Agency Formation Commission report said.

That can cause difficulties when a city or district needs helps on a fire. Often it takes a couple of calls to different departments to get assistance sent, the report said.

Vacaville Fire Chief Frank Drayton addressed the commission on behalf of the county’s fire chiefs.

“I can assure you every chief in the county is in favor of some form of consolidated dispatch,” Drayton said.

But they don’t know the right path to end up there, he said. Consolidation reports over the past 25 years seem to put the cost at around $20 million. Drayton said he believes consolidated dispatch can be done for less money.

Cordelia Fire Protection District Fire Chief Jay Huyssoon said the county needs a single dispatch center for fire services, one that doesn’t have people carrying two or three radios for communications.

Supervisor John Vasquez sits on the Local Agency Formation Commission. He wondered aloud exactly what the commission is looking at doing. Consolidating fire districts is one thing, consolidating dispatch is something else, he said.

In addition, the various districts and cities will decide if they want to participate, Vasquez said. He recommended the professionals who sit on the county’s disaster council discuss the matter.

Supervisor Skip Thomson said he’s talking about consolidating dispatch. The issue has been on the table since his earlier stint as supervisor that began in 1992, he said.

“I want this body to start the process and at least try to get the players at the same table to talk about a communications center,” Thomson said.

If the commission wants to consolidate fire districts, a municipal service review for the fire districts must first be completed. Mulberg said an updated review could be finished by August.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

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