City of Slaton considers transferring dispatch services to Lubbock County

Officials hope transition will save money; Dispatch employees fear livelihoods
Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 7:03 AM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The City of Slaton is considering entering an agreement with Lubbock County for dispatch services, something city officials say would save money, but residents have some concerns. Sheriff Kelly Rowe says Slaton is the last municipality in Lubbock County to use its own dispatch services. If the City enters the agreement, 911 calls from Slaton would go to the Lubbock County dispatch center, but Slaton officers would still respond to scenes.

The council discussed the agreement at City Hall Monday night, joined by Rowe, Captain Joe Gilliam, Nathan Kizer, the Executive Director at Lubbock Emergency Communication District, and Slaton Police Chief Trevor Barnes. Mayor Clifton Shaw says this was the first time council was presented with the agreement, but administrators have been discussing the transition with Rowe for a few weeks.

Mayor Shaw says Slaton has had some trouble keeping dispatchers and the agreement would save the City more than $100,000 a year. Rowe is confident the Sheriff’s Office could absorb the additional call volume at no cost and with no additional resources. He says the transition would be seamless for those calling 911.

“We do it all over the entire rest of the county and it’s seamless. Whether it’s police, fire or EMS, those are the primary things we’re talking about and they won’t see any difference in how that will happen,” Rowe said.

City Administrator Wade Wilson says the change could save the city $1.5 million over the next 10 years. When a concern arose during the meeting about response time, Sheriff Rowe said that shouldn’t be an issue.

“If you’re looking for a downside from the ability to serve us, I mean they’re here. They’re willing. The capabilities they have are the same, if not better, not an issue there,” Chief Barnes said. “But the staff that we’re going to be, what’s going to happen to them? We’ve been working with them for a long time.”

The transfer wouldn’t come without consequences - three Slaton dispatchers would lose their positions. Shaw says two dispatchers would stay on staff as office administrators to answer the department’s non-emergency calls during the workday Monday to Friday. A couple dispatchers were at the meeting and expressed concern about their livelihoods.

One dispatcher, Connie Jordan, has been doing the job for 40 years. She says she’s worked at six different agencies in her career, was the communications supervisor at Lubbock County, and has spent the last 10 years with Slaton. She is a widow and says her income is the only one she has. She says she’s too young to qualify for widow benefits, her late husband’s disability benefits, and social security.

“But, I just feel like it’s a hardship on us that have dedicated our lives to doing communications for our police. And it’s just hard for me to think that our jobs are the ones that’s on the line when there could be cuts somewhere else in the city,” Jordan said.

She’s worried other agencies wouldn’t hire her because of her age. Rowe says the county would try to help find a spot for those dispatchers if it can, even if that means referring them to the Lubbock Police Department, fire or hospital dispatch systems.

Mayor Shaw says it’s a tough position to be in, but one the city has to consider.

“The City has to cut expenses. And I’m sorry to say, but this looks like a place that it could go and not lose service,” Shaw said.

Rowe says he first approached Slaton with a transition like this several years ago, along with several other small towns. But at that time, he says radio communication issues prevented city leaders from moving forward. Another dispatcher at the meeting expressed her concern about radio dead zones that remain in the area, something the City has been dealing with for years. Chief Barnes says the police department has applied for a grant to help address that, but that the City is still far from having radio coverage that will ensure officers’ safety.

The agreement would be a memorandum of understanding between the City of Slaton and Lubbock County. So, if at some point either party wants out, they just need to give 30 days notice. Ultimately, the council decided to table the discussion until its September meeting. If the City decides to move forward, Rowe says the transfer could be complete by October.

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