Dunlap said the closure of the center can’t be helped, and that it all came down to money.
The county has two dispatch centers handling 911 calls, he said, one in Nucla and one in Montrose. The Montrose dispatch center is one of the biggest in the area, he said, handling calls for 27 agencies, including the Telluride Marshal’s Office.
Dunlap said a study was done to gauge how each center was doing as far as budgets and operational costs to be used to develop a strategic plan for his department.
After comparing figures, the study determined that the Montrose dispatch center was costing $6.19 per call while at the West End dispatch center every call costs $143.
“I had a cost analysis done on both centers,” he said. “The center in Nucla needs some major equipment upgrades and those upgrades will cost in the neighborhood of $700,000 in addition to a budget of over $400,000.”
Dunlap said he just couldn’t afford those kinds of costs, not when the county is facing a $3.8 million reduction in revenue next year and the sheriff’s budget will be cut by $166,000.
“I had to look at cost saving measures,” he said. “I just can’t justify putting $700,000 into that center when this time next year we’ll have to cut again for 2013.”
Some minor upgrades will be needed at the Montrose center, he said, costing between $23,000 and $26,000, but it will be able to cover the entire area.
“Nobody feels worse about this than I do, that it will affect six employees,” he said.
The employees are being given the opportunity to transfer to Montrose to fill any position they qualified for, he said, and there’s on position open at the Montrose dispatch center and four positions at the Montrose County jail.
“I’m trying to do everything I can to accommodate these employees, but the bottom line at the end of the day is that I just can’t justify running two centers,” he said.
The Montrose dispatch center also handles calls from Telluride fire and ambulance, the town of Mountain Village, and all of Ouray County including Ridgway, Dunlap said.
There is “absolutely no reason” why the Montrose center can’t handle calls from the West End, Dunlap said, but some people are still “really skeptical” about the level of service they’ll receive.
“I want to assure them that we will still be able to dispatch the ambulances and fire department,” he said.
The closure of the dispatch center will not affect the five sheriff’s deputies currently working on the West End, he said.
“I put one extra deputy out there after I was elected, but one deputy has retired and we have not filled that position,” he said.
The position could have been filled by the West End dispatch center supervisor since he’s a certified office, but Dunlap said he turned down the job.
All six of the laid off employees will receive vacation and sick time pay as well as any retirement benefits they had accrued. Dunlap said he will help them any way he can.
“They are six excellent people,” he said. “If I had an employee problem I’d feel better, but these are excellent employees and I give them nothing but praise.”
Dunlap said he and his human resources director area heading to Nucla tomorrow to meet with the employees one-on-one.
Last week Dunlap talked to residents in Nucla and said people are upset that the center is closing, but he assured them they will still receive the kind of service they’re used to. He said he agonized over the decision to make the cuts.
“It’s sickening and I’ve laid awake at night thinking about his and trying to come up ways I didn’t have to do this,” he said. “But it’s the result of our economy, and it’s unfortunate.”
The office will likely close at the end of the fiscal year, Dunlap’s office said.