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Dispatch staffers put under one roof

A new shared building brings fire-rescue and sheriff's 911 staffs together for quicker, more effective response.

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET
Published April 6, 2005


NEW PORT RICHEY - Nearly 40 miles used to separate the dispatchers handling emergency calls in Pasco County.

Someone calling 911 would get a fire-rescue dispatcher in New Port Richey who could send out an ambulance or fire truck, and even offer medical assistance over the phone. But a person needing a sheriff's deputy would be transferred to a different dispatcher in Dade City.

Officials say it was an inefficient setup, especially considering the urgency of calls coming through the 911 system.

So they built a $2.8-million solution: A 10,000-square-foot emergency communications center that houses all county dispatchers under one roof.

Fire-rescue dispatchers still have to transfer some calls across the room to sheriff's dispatchers, but they communicate better and build camaraderie by sharing the same facility, Sheriff Bob White said.

"This is going to give us a continuity we've been missing for a long time," he said.

The limited access building, which has electronic doors and requires security cards for entry, sits next to the Emergency Operations Center at the West Pasco Government Center. The building has bulletproof glass and can withstand hurricane-force winds up to 146 mph.

Fire-rescue dispatchers moved into the building in January; sheriff's dispatchers joined them the following month. County commissioners toured the building Tuesday morning.

"Pretty doggone impressive, isn't it?" said Commissioner Ann Hildebrand, looking at the roomful of dispatchers using new monitors and headsets.

White looks at the shared building as a first step. Eventually, he hopes to have cross-training so all dispatchers can handle all types of calls.

Fire-rescue dispatchers have special training to provide medical instructions over the phone, while sheriff's dispatchers must receive clearance from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement because they have access to warrants and arrest information.

"There's a lot to learn on both sides," White said. "Ultimately that has to be the goal, but it's not something we're going to rush into."

In other County Commission news Tuesday:

SETTLEMENT IN WORKS WITH THREE H LEARNING CENTER: County attorneys are hammering out a settlement with the work program based in Dade City that should make the neighbors "elated," Commissioner Ted Schrader said at the meeting at the West Pasco Government Center.

Three H plans to move its guardrail assembly, sign assembly shop and other manufacturing and repair facilities to the Pasco Business Center, Schrader said. Offices and classrooms would stay on the existing property, which is located in a predominantly rural residential area.

The county sued the learning center, also known as the Florida Youth Conservation Corps, several years ago after operations became louder and more intense than commissioners had approved. The proposed settlement will come to commissioners April 26 for approval, but Commissioner Steve Simon said he's not ready to celebrate yet.

Given Three H's history of misleading the county, Simon said, "I would remain a pretty suspicious viewer to see that they do anything at this point."

COUNTY MULLS NEW WATER STANDARDS: An ad hoc committee on Aloha Utilities has offered a solution to the complaints of blackish, rotten-egg smelling water coming from some customers' taps. The group is asking the commission to require Aloha to use aeration to remove the hydrogen sulfide from the water.

Commissioners will hear from Aloha representatives May 10, then decide whether to draft an ordinance for consideration at future hearings.

FIVE INTERSECTION PROJECTS GET GREEN LIGHT: Commissioners agreed to get started on the first road improvements using the Penny for Pasco sales tax hike approved by voters last year.

As soon as contractors are selected, work will begin on the following intersections: Collier Parkway and Weeks Boulevard; Grand Boulevard and Moog Road; Grand Boulevard and Trouble Creek Road; Little Road and Timber Oaks Drive (formerly Ponderosa Avenue); and U.S. 19 and Fox Hollow Drive.

The five projects will cost about $3.2-million.

COUNTY FIGHTS IMPACT FEE BILLS: Commissioners approved a strongly-worded resolution urging legislators not to pass a measure that would change the way impact fees are collected across the state.

Among other things, County Attorney Robert Sumner said, the bill could delay the county's ability to collect impact fees, potentially holding up the construction of much-needed schools, roads and other infrastructure.

"I'm quite dumbfounded (the bill has) even made it this far," Schrader said, noting the measure is moving through committees in the Senate and the House.

Bridget Hall Grumet covers Pasco County government. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is bhall@sptimes.com

[Last modified April 6, 2005, 01:07:18]


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