TRUCKEE, Calif. - In what's being described as a money-saving venture that won't impact officer response times, three of Nevada County's largest communities have given the OK to consolidate police dispatch services into a regional center.
Truckee Town Council unanimously approved the move at its Sept. 25 meeting, while Grass Valley City Council approved the matter with a 4-1 vote the same night and Nevada City Council unanimously approved it the following evening.
The Nevada County Sheriff's Office would be the fourth and final entity to join the group, should the Nevada County Board of Supervisors approve the measure at its Oct. 9 meeting, said Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal.
In the meantime, Truckee's dispatch services have already been transferred to Nevada City, where the consolidated NCSO center is located. This change took place Monday, said Truckee Police Capt. Harwood Mitchell.
"This is possible because the groundwork and logistics, including all the equipment changes, had already been put in place," he said.
Royal said this consolidation has been many years in the making.
"It's been a tough fiscally for all agencies for the past two, three years, and this is an opportunity to save money for all agencies, improve efficiencies and enhance officer safety," he said.
The current annual expense for Truckee's police dispatch service is about $550,000, and with the consolidation, the annual cost is expected to be about $368,000, thus an annual savings of about $185,000.
"Anytime I can save money for Truckee residents, that's what I'm looking for - the bottom line and being fiscally conservative," said Truckee Town Councilman Mark Brown, as for why he approved the consolidation.
Savings this year for the town will be less than $185,000, said Tony Lashbrook, Truckee town manager, as a result of the consolidation taking place halfway through the 2012-13 fiscal year.
"That (the allocation of savings) will be for the town council to set in the 2013-14 budget process," Lashbrook said. "It kicks off this spring."
Until then, any savings resulting from the consolidation will go into the town's general fund, Brown said.
As for the other communities, it's estimated Grass Valley will save $163,000 annually, while Nevada City will save $30,000, on top of avoiding a $30,000 service cost increase next year.
Consolidation means the shutting down of Grass Valley's dispatch center as well as Truckee's, which is located in the NCSO substation on Donner Pass Road.
"The building will remain as a sheriff substation and jail," said Truckee Police Chief Adam McGill. "There just won't be dispatch in it anymore."
Usually, the substation employees six dispatchers for Truckee Police. Recently, however, it has been operated by four dispatchers due to two vacant positions, Royal said.
As for the future of those four positions, Royal said one dispatcher will be transferred to NCSO in Nevada City and another will retire, while the other two have secured other employment - one in the private sector and the other with the Placer County Sheriff's Office.
As for Grass Valley's dispatch center, it will lose four full-time and two part-time dispatchers. However, Grass Valley's Police Department stands to gain three positions: a clerk, a sergeant position and a vacant officer position.
The new consolidated dispatch center in Nevada City will also see an increase in employees, Royal said, going up from nine employees to 13 - one manager and 12 dispatchers - to cover the approximately 80,000 combined service calls the four agencies receive annually.
In Truckee, that should equate to better response times, McGill said.
"We hope to experience some enhanced service because the main center has more than one dispatcher working at a time, so in a crisis or (an) unusually busy period, the dispatchers have more resources to draw upon," he said.
"I assure the public that when they call 911, their call will be answered promptly and professionally," McGill continued. "A Truckee police officer will continue to respond in a timely fashion as we always have. ... The dispatcher plays a tremendous role in emergency response and their part cannot be minimized, but it is the police officer who responds to help you.
"The officers remain in Truckee ... the physical location of the dispatcher answering your 911 call does not change how fast an officer arrives to help you."
Assuming the Nevada County supervisors join, Royal said the goal for full consolidation to take into effect is Nov. 1.
"The transition should not be obvious to the public," McGill said.
- Christopher Rosacker of The Union newspaper contributed to this report.