Sheriff looking to include other agencies in dispatch policy decision making, would charge for services

(Lander, Wyo.) – Fremont County Sheriff Skip Hornecker talked to the Fremont County Commission on Tuesday about reorganizing the structure of the communications department of his office.

“For the last few years we’ve been to some extent concerned about the structure of the communications department,” Hornecker said.

He said the communications department was set up to be an enterprise fund, which should generate revenue from users to cover expenses. However, Hornecker said the Lander Police Department has been the only user that actually pays into the system. He noted that the Shoshoni Police Department has chipped in with in-kind support in the past.

Recently, he and representatives from the various agencies that use the county’s dispatch services have met and brainstormed options on how to move forward. Users of the dispatch service are: Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, LPD, SPD, Fremont County Ambulance, Fremont County Fire Protection District, Lander Volunteer Fire Department, Dubois Rural Fire District, Jeffrey City Rural Fire District, Fremont County Coroner and Fremont County Emergency Management. Hornecker said occasionally the department provides services for the Wind River Police Department. (The City of Riverton has its own dispatch center.)

Hornecker said a joint powers board structure was considered, however the group is leaning toward an enterprise fund structure with more input from the users. In the past, agencies were hesitant to pay into the program.

“Stakeholders were rightly concerned about paying into a product that they didn’t have any oversight on,” he said.

He believes with the propose structure, he thinks other user agencies not already involved might reach out.

Moving forward he is planning on setting up two committees that will work together on oversight of the dispatch center: the Dispatch Steering Committee and the Dispatch Review Committee.

“The Dispatch Review Committee is responsible for the formal process of reviewing compliance reports generated by the Quality Improvement Unit,” he wrote in a handout to the commission. “These reviews will include the analysis of problematic and exemplary cases, etc. This group also makes formal recommendations to the Dispatch Steering Committee for operational changes. The dispatch Review Committee membership usually includes: Shift Supervisor, Field Representative(s), line dispatcher(s), Quality Control Representative, Field Training Officer and others as appropriate.”

“The purpose of the Dispatch Steering Committee is to make final decisions and approve or disapprove operational policy as recommended by the Dispatch Review Committee(s),” Hornecker wrote. “The Dispatch Steering Committee membership usually includes: 9-1-1 Center Manager, Quality Control Representative, Public Safety Administrators (Fire, Police Chiefs, EMS Director and the Chair of the Dispatch Review Committee(s) in an advisory capacity only.)

Commission Chairman Doug Thompson asked if this system would formalize conversations that were already being had. Hornecker said that was true.

It has not yet been determined how the various agencies would be charged. “We are looking strongly at calls for service,” he said, meaning that agencies with more calls would be charged more than those with fewer. Hornecker added that there are some problems with basing charges off of calls for service. Fire calls, for example, can vary severely year to year based on the weather.

The communications budget is about $918,000 this year, and Hornecker expects an increase to possibly $1.3 million in the coming year. Lander pays $118,800 into it each year. He said the city’s amount is not based on calls for service. By charging everyone, it would add a level of fairness, he said, adding that his office would pay for their portion of usage as well.