Merger of Summit County and Park City’s dispatch centers finalized
All emergency calls will now go through the Sheriff’s Office.
Now that the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and Park City Police Department have consolidated dispatch services, one of the only differences callers will notice when dialing 911 during emergency situations is a decrease in response times, according to law enforcement officials.
For nearly two months, the Sheriff’s Office, with the help of Park City dispatchers, has fielded all emergency calls for the public safety agencies in Summit County, including Park City Police, fire agencies, emergency medical services and public works. Last month, the Park City and Summit County Councils unanimously agreed to officially authorize the consolidation, effective Jan. 1.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office and Park City Police Department recently combined their services to form the Public Safety Communications Center to reduce the cost of operations and improve response times during emergency situations.
“The whole purpose behind this to reduce the cost for infrastructure. But, the bigger thing behind this is the efficiency of services for the residents,” said Andrew Wright, a lieutenant with the Sheriff’s Office. “People in some of the higher elevations and different areas of the county may have had their calls transferred to Salt Lake and you have a few risks there. You’ve got the risk of the call being dropped or lost or transferred and you have a delay in service. This just makes sense for the fact that it reduces the amount of transfers for emergency calls.”
More than a year ago, the Sheriff’s Office and Park City Police Department began conversations about combining the two dispatch centers following the passing of legislation through the Utah Legislature that encouraged consolidation statewide. The legislation eliminated funding for secondary dispatch centers, such as the one operated by the Park City Police Department.
“With the change of legislation, they were going to do away with secondary public safety answering points (PSAPs) and since we are the secondary PSAP we would we essentially become a call center handling non-emergency calls,” said Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter.
The consolidation has required Park City’s dispatchers to relocate to the dispatch center of the Sheriff’s Office. On Jan. 1, those workers will become employees of the Sheriff’s Office under the supervision of Sheriff Justin Martinez.
Carpenter said “change is always difficult” and some Park City dispatchers have chosen not to maintain their positions due to the merger.
“There has been some turnover on both sides,” Carpenter said. “Anyone who wanted to has been able to maintain their jobs and keep their positions. We were able to look at pay range and what they are making, including their benefits, and keep that about the same. But, some have chosen on their own to not do that and it’s fine. Ultimately, I have to look out for, and the county does as well, what is best for the safety of the community as a whole.”
Tanya Odenbach, a supervisor in the dispatch center of the Sheriff’s Office, said the consolidation has caused some adjustments on her part.
“I think it has been learning curve,” Odenbach said. “It has created a challenge for us as supervisors and administrators to bring everything together. But, I think it has made the service better for our officers and the citizens because we were duplicating a lot of our services.
“I think it will speed things up as far as response times go,” she said. “Our officers back each other, whether it is Utah Highway Patrol or Summit County, Kamas or Park City law enforcement. Now that we are on the same channel they can hear each other and understand if someone needs back up on a call.”
When dialing 911 in Summit County, callers will now reach the Public Safety Dispatch Center instead of Park City or Summit County dispatch, Wright said. All phone numbers for Summit County and Park City’s non-emergency lines will remain the same.
The dispatch center in the police department will act as a backup center. The infrastructure will remain in place so that the center can be used during emergency operations or special events.
The dispatch center in the Sheriff’s Office will undergo a roughly $217,000 remodel as part of the consolidation. The remodel is scheduled to be complete by Jan. 1. Dispatchers will be relocated to the center in the police department during renovations.
“Our hope is that not only is it better for the agencies, but the community sees that the efficiency and the response time and level of service that is provided to them,” Wright said. “Additionally, it’s about the cost saving it gives to the taxpayer and that’s really why the state is pushing towards this. It minimizes the amount of databases and the infrastructure and it allows us to have better information sharing between agencies.”
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