Following years of muddled negotiations over the future of a jointly run dispatch center, Weld County officials on Wednesday opened the doors to a brand new center they can call all their own.
The new regional dispatch center, at 1551 N. 17th Ave. in Greeley, will be in full operation next week, but county officials held an open house on Wednesday to laud a quick transition from a shared dispatch center with the city of Greeley to a wholly Weld County operation.
The new dispatch center is just across from the old one, which was in the basement of the Weld County Sheriff’s Office.
The old center wasn’t at an ideal location because dispatchers sat beneath water pipes, said Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer during a short presentation at the open house.
The new center, complete with hydraulic desks and a giant touch-screen computer for incident command, can comfortably seat 14 dispatchers at a time, with the capacity for 28 in an emergency, said Mike Wallace, Weld County’s public safety communications director.
The E911 Authority Board paid $2.5 million of the $4 million tab to open the dispatch center, with Weld County contributing the remainder of the cost.
After this center is up and running for at least 30 days, Wallace said he’ll move on to transition equipment to the backup center on 35th Avenue, which he hopes to have ready by June.
Since Weld County took over the day-to-day operations of the dispatch center in September, Wallace said he added 11 dispatchers, eight supervisors, an operations manager and seven employees who make up the public safety information technology staff.
Weld County ended its contract with Xerox for IT services and created an in-house department, meaning dispatch had to hire its own IT staff.
Wallace said he also raised the salaries of dispatchers, which he said lagged behind the market and were lower than in Fort Collins and Loveland.
Wallace said the county has also taken on a radio system in partnership with Adams County because the old state-run system inhibited the county from using more cutting-edge technology. He said he has since been approached by a number of governments wishing to take part in the new system.
New equipment in the dispatch center can also show dispatchers weather conditions in real time, and Wallace said the county should soon be set up to receive 911 text messages.
Wallace, who has opened four dispatch centers before this one and started working for Weld County last March, said it was an impressively quick transition.
“To pull something off like this, especially the radio system, is just unheard of,” he said.
Greeley and Weld County officials for several years discussed whether to change how the dispatch center was managed, and in fall of 2012 they announced they would each run their own separate centers. The two entities then swayed back and forth on whether to split, citing issues over whether Greeley could control some protocol and other disagreements.
They ultimately decided to make Greeley a paying customer of the county’s center, which was made official in September.