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Farmington Police Dept.

Discussion of moving Farmington police dispatching to the county 911 center has long been discussed. Officials are again looking at the option. 

Discussion about closing the City of Farmington’s police dispatch operations and moving them to the county’s 911 center was revived recently.

Alan Wells, director of St. Francois County Joint Communications Center, gave an update on the status of the situation.

“It’s just being discussed yet and evaluated,” he said. “We’ve not signed anything or have any form of agreement yet whatsoever. It’s something we have looked at repeatedly for 20 years.

"We’ve evaluated this many times. If you can retain the equivalent or better quality of service, and do it cheaper, that’s what we are supposed to do.”

Wells addressed the concerns about Farmington’s dispatchers losing their jobs over a potential transition.

“There would be a percentage of them that would be retained,” he said. “Our certifications are a little different than theirs. One, we are the primary 911 answering point, which requires additional training. We do police, fire, and ambulance where they only do police, so there are additional training requirements that have to be met.

"[Farmington dispatch does] a good job, but they do a single entity only. They do a lot of extra service for the citizens, I give them that.”

Wells is optimistic about the county being able to handle the calls for the city of Farmington.

“It will be a little bit of a transition if we do it, if we move forward, for everyone a little learning curve ... I think it will be as equal or in some areas, technologies and things that we can offer ... can be of an advantage and be a cheaper price.”

Farmington Police Chief Rick Baker commented on the history and status of any changes to dispatching.

“We are in the process of discussing a transition to Central Dispatch, it’s been looked at for several years,” he said. “A few years ago, when the 911 tax passed, at that time Central Dispatch was not capable, they had some issues that they had to deal with in reference to upgrading their radio equipment and training. They didn’t have enough personnel at that time.

“We are in the process of discussing it. We are looking to make a merger. The deadline is April, we are working toward that. There are a lot of issues and staffing questions that have not been answered at this time. We have had one formal meeting. We will be having a meeting Oct. 23, and we will be moving forward with this process.”

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Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at mmarberry@farmingtonpressonline.com

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