The Central Jackson County Fire Protection District is in discussions to move its emergency dispatch center to the Kansas City Fire Department.
Callers to 911 will see no difference in the call taking process or emergency response, CJC said in a release. With this potential move, 911 calls would still be answered by Jackson County Sheriff or Blue Springs Police dispatch, but will be routed to the Kansas City Fire dispatch facility. The district also said callers would receive no delays in call reception or processing.
The district says the move is strictly a business decision. The current annual cost for CJC to house its own dispatch center is approximately $850,000 with personnel, equipment, training, etc. The cost after the move is projected to be less than $400,000 per year, according to the district.
Should the CJC dispatch center be relocated to Kansas City, it will also result in the loss of nine positions, according to CJC Chief Steve Westermann.
“However, through the discussion and negotiation process, CJC is able to secure a job for any CJC dispatcher wishing to take advantage of the opportunity to work for KCFD dispatch,” Westermann said in the release. The release did not say whether the nine CJC employees would receive a pay cut if transferred to KCFD dispatch.
Kirk Lair of the International Association of Firefighters Local 3133 said that if these CJC dispatchers were to accept a position with KCFD, they would likely have to reside within Kansas City boundaries in accordance of the Kansas City Charter. However, he said an exclusion was made with Municipal Ambulance Services Trust personnel when it merged with KCFD in 2010, allowing them to reside outside Kansas City boundaries.
“With economic and development downturns affecting budgets for public service entities, Westermann was given direction by the CJC Board of Directors to find ways to address budget shortfalls without compromising the service (for) our citizens, businesses and visitors,” wrote the release.
These costs, if the CJC dispatch center remained in Blue Springs, are expected to increase in the next few years due to necessary upgrades in hardware and software. In 2006, CJC took 911 fire and EMS dispatch service from the city of Blue Springs and developed its own system and housed it at Fire Station No. 3. That change for a separate fire and EMS dispatch apart from Blue Springs Police dispatch was primarily due to increased call loads for both agencies, wrote CJC.
The contract is awaiting approval from the city of Kansas City, according to the CJC release.
“The decision to make the transition to KCFD dispatch is not an easy one and is being done through considerable discussion and negotiation to ensure the service would be at least as effective and as high quality as is provided now,” CJC said.
“This change will be difficult but in the end we believe the decision is in the best interest of our patrons,” said Westermann in the release. “We are confident the customer care will not change while strengthening CJC’s financial stability.”
A KCFD Public Information Officer also said the department has been talking to “other municipalities” throughout the metropolitan area to create a regional dispatch center at the current KCFD center.