The Pasco City Council members has given an unofficial, but enthusiastic thumbs up to creating a single 911 dispatch operation in the Mid-Columbia.
“Boy, persistence pays off but it sure takes a long time,” Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Francik said Monday night.
She noted how many changes they’ve had on council and in city and police administration since the issue of consolidating dispatch centers was first raised many years ago.
Pasco was the first city and county board this week to discuss the emergency services transition and buy-in agreement. The council’s formal vote will come June 19.
The Benton County Commission on Tuesday affirmed its commitment with a 2-1 vote. And on Wednesday, the topic goes before Franklin County commissioners.
The plan is to bring Franklin County and the city of Pasco into Benton County Emergency Services’ Southeast Communications Center (SECOMM) in early 2018.
Pasco Police Chief Bob Metzger, who presented the plan to the council Monday, said it was a big moment for the community.
He explained that just last week, a combined dispatch center would have helped as Pasco investigated a robbery on Court Street and Kennewick was looking into two convenience store robberies.
The crimes ended up being tied to one suspect, but officers with both agencies didn’t make the connection until later because dispatchers need to pick up a phone and call the other jurisdiction to update them on happenings.
Franklin County has nine dispatchers who cover an area with a population of 80,000, Metzger said. They will have the first opportunity to apply with the city of Richland, which controls SECOMM, and expand their coverage area to 280,000 residents.
After consolidation, all 911 calls in Benton and Franklin counties will be routed to SECOMM, a move experts say will improve service and eliminate misrouted calls from mobile devices.
Councilman Al Yenney said he is 100 percent behind the consolidation because time spent trying to find out if you’ve reached Franklin or Benton dispatchers in an emergency cellphone call “could mean life or death.”
Benton County Commissioners Shon Small and Jerome Delvin supported the move, as they did a week ago when the commission voted on the same matter. The earlier vote was not part of the published agenda and did not include a formal resolution. Tuesday’s vote made the county’s support official.
Commission Chair Jim Beaver voted against the plan both times.