Salt Lake City looks to combine police, fire 911 center

Both fire and police chiefs support the move


By Christopher Smart
The Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City's new public safety building is more than a year from its scheduled completion. But when it opens in July 2013, it will house a combined police and fire 911 emergency and dispatch center — if Mayor Ralph Becker gets his way.

Right now, the city's police and fire departments have separate dispatch centers.

Combining them — as called for in Becker's proposed budget — makes sense, according to Police Chief Chris Burbank and Fire Chief Kurt Cook. The pair made that assertion this week during a City Council session. Among other advantages, both said it would smooth coordination between the two agencies during emergencies.

The council is sifting through Becker's $204 million 2012-13 spending plan. The council must sign off on a budget by June 30.
The proposed dispatch center appears in the upcoming budget even though the public safety building will not open until after the 2012-13 budget cycle. That's because efforts to join the police and fire call centers must begin soon, said Becker spokesman Art Raymond.

Although Burbank and Cook said the combined dispatch center would bring eventual efficiencies, the mayor's plan shows no savings for the upcoming year.

The fire department's call center would have been set at $1.45 million, while the police department's service would have been pinned at $3.72 million. The combined center proposal comes in at $5.2 million — making it a wash.

"There are no initial cost savings, but there may be over time," Raymond said. "We will be able to maintain service levels with three fewer employees."

According to the mayor's proposal, the dispatch center would be independent of the police and fire departments and be operated by 54 full-time employees. A director, who has yet to be selected, would report directly to the mayor.

The combined dispatch center is expected to receive about 100,000 emergency calls a year.

Copyright 2012 The Salt Lake Tribune
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