Scott County, Sikeston officials consider 911 consolidation - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Scott County, Sikeston officials consider 911 consolidation

SCOTT COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Emergency dispatch centers provide a vital service to their community, but tough financial decisions have many 911 call centers in a lurch and looking for a way to survive.

One possible solution gaining traction is consolidation.

The Scott County 911 Center dispatches for six fire departments and five law enforcement agencies, but they could soon be adding Sikeston to that list as city and county officials consider joining the two locations.

They're the people you rely on to get you help when disaster strikes.

"You have to remember they're calling at the worst time of their life," said Scott County 911 Supervisor Donna Ballard.

Budget cuts and money struggles have created a muddy future for 911 dispatch centers.

Scott County and Sikeston are in talks to consolidate their centers into one in response to diminishing revenues.

"It just makes sense to pool their resources together and put it under one roof," said Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter.

Sheriff Walter said money from land line phones used to support the center, but most households have moved away from those to cell phones.

A recent cell phone tax proposal to compensate for that loss did not pass, but 911 supervisor Donna Ballard said no matter where a potential new center pops up, operations will be maintained.

"Wherever they decide to put the 911, whether it goes to Sikeston or comes here, the quality of service is not going to change," said Ballard. "There won't be any kind of time lapse everyone will get the same service. What will happen is when the calls come in it will go directly to that agency."

A change to the centers would equal more money for technology upgrades, but it also means an added workload for dispatchers and training to get familiar with new locations.

"We're not familiar with the Sikeston city streets, we are familiar with Scott City, but not as familiar with Sikeston city streets. And if they came here they'd have to learn the same thing too," Ballard said.

For dispatchers, it could also mean a longer commute to and from work, but Ballard said she is aware of the budget crisis and understands the need for a solution

"I've been here for quite a few years so I'm going to be partial to staying here, but I do understand money is getting tight for 911 and we probably do need to consolidate," Ballard added.

No final decision on a consolidation plan has been made, but Sheriff Walter said he thinks many areas will move to this idea of a regional 911 center in the near future.

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