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Lompoc to consider contracting out dispatch services

Posted at 6:05 PM, Sep 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-18 21:05:46-04

Lompoc’s current dispatch center is severely understaffed. 

Police and fire officials say they’re having trouble recruiting qualified dispatchers and the gap in employees is creating a public safety hazard.

As a possible fix, Lompoc’s police and fire chiefs are asking city managers to consider contracting dispatch services with either Santa Barbara County or the City of Santa Maria.

With around 46,000 calls for service a year, the Lompoc Police Department Dispatch Center is designed for eight full-time dispatchers, a full-time supervisor, and some part-time staffing. 

They’ve been operating well below that for years.

"Currently, I’m supervising dispatch and we have three full-time dispatchers backed up by two full-time police officers working in the dispatch center. I even have to use a jailer on occasions to keep dispatch running," said Sgt. Kevin Martin, Lompoc Police Department.

The dispatch center is also running on a modified shift. At times, there’s only one dispatcher on shift when there is supposed to be two dispatchers, 24-hours a day.

It’s a challenge that creates a ripple effect for emergency crews.

"There’s times we have multiple incidences and a dispatcher doesn’t have time to even talk to us, because she’ll be working on a police department call or she’ll be working on a fire call and she can’t get back to the police department," said Lompoc Fire Chief Jerry Kuras.

The police department has tried to recruit.

"In the last two years, we’ve put through 12 to 13 candidates to become dispatchers and none of those have been successful," Sgt. Martin said.

With a consolidated dispatch center, Police Chief Pat Walsh says it would increase efficiency and response times and may even save the city some money.

If approved at Tuesday night’s city council meeting, the city would get the green light to have detailed discussions with the County of Santa Barbara and City of Santa Maria about the cost of a potential future contract.

Preliminary numbers from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office show it would cost Lompoc around $950,000 for the first year of a contract and $988,000 for the second and third years.