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In a county with three dispatch centers, an ongoing study examines the pros as well as the downsides of opening a regional “911” call center at the sheriff’s office in Divide.

“The current system creates inefficiency,” Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell said. “If you live in a municipality, you pay for three dispatch centers.

Residents with cell phones and landlines pay a fee to the El Paso Teller E-911 Authority, in addition to paying a portion of the taxes for the city and county dispatch centers.

The sheriff has publicly supported the consolidation of the three centers and ties the three-tier system to the current labor shortage in the county dispatch center.

“We have three dispatch centers competing for the same dispatchers,” he said. “And they come and go to everyone.”

The two cities have nine dispatchers each while the center of Divide has 10, which comes down to maybe two per shift. County commissioners last week approved funds to hire five more dispatchers, Mikesell said.

“It takes eight months to train a dispatcher and almost a year for a patrol officer, and another three to six months to get them through the hiring process,” Mikesell said.

The study conducted by Mission Critical Partners for the El Paso Teller E-911 Authority includes contributions from stakeholders representing Woodland Park, Cripple Creek, Teller County, the Gaming Commission, Emergency Services and the forces of the order.

“The study aims to give them enough information to make an informed decision,” Cripple Creek Police Chief Bud Bright said.

“How does the city police department deal with regionalization if we don’t have dispatchers here like Dianne who wears 3 or 4 hats?” Bright said, referring to Dianne Pritchard, the department’s director of emergency communications.

“If we don’t have staff here 24/7, we would have to hire someone. Regionalization will cost us dearly.

When there is an accident or other types of emergencies, it’s chaos in the dispatch office, Bright said. “Staff are limited and during the winter we have cars sliding on the road during a storm and maybe 50 calls at a time,” he said. “Hats off to the dispatchers. “

In fact, two years ago the dispatchers at Cripple Creek, eight at the time, were re-accredited as the 212th medical unit of the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch. “We are the smallest dispatch center in the world,” said Bright.

In Divide, even with the funds approved, Mikesell laments the difficulty of not only hiring dispatchers, but also retaining them.

“Teller County MPs and dispatchers are paid 25 to 40 percent less than the average salary of law enforcement officers in Colorado,” he said.

The advantage of consolidation is that emergency service responses would be faster. “There would be no lag because we would be cutting out the middlemen,” Bright said.

Yet the decision to consolidate or not rests with city and county officials. For now, Cripple Creek City Council is simply saying no.

“Our board decided that it was not worth the trouble to consolidate the dispatch centers,” Bright said.

Bright agrees with Mikesell that the pay scale has always been an issue for law enforcement in Teller County, as well as for dispatch center regionalization. “One day it will happen,” he said.

Woodland Park Police Chief Steve Hasler said he sees two issues.

“We’re talking about paying for dispatchers and pooling resources,” he said. Until then, Hasler said, it is up to the board to decide on the consolidation.

However, Hasler added, the study committee will meet again on December 8.